South Korean voters go to polls in local elections

A polling station at a community centre being set up in northern Seoul, South Korea, on June 12, 2018.
A polling station at a community centre being set up in northern Seoul, South Korea, on June 12, 2018. PHOTO: EPA-EFE

SEOUL - South Korea began voting on Wednesday (June 13) in local elections and parliamentary by-elections which are seen as a referendum on liberal President Moon Jae In's administration, Yonhap news agency reported.

At stake are 4,016 local administrative, legislative and educational posts, including 17 metropolitan mayoralties and provincial governorships. The by-elections are to fill 12 vacant parliamentary seats.

Voting kicked off at 6am and was to run until 6pm at 14,134 polling centres nationwide, according to the National Election Commission. Eligible voters number 42.9 million.

As of 9am, 7.7 per cent of all eligible voters have turned out to cast their ballots, the election watchdog said.

It is the first time that the two types of elections will be held simultaneously.

Turnout in the two-day early voting period came in at 20.14 per cent, higher than the 11.5 per cent for the 2014 local elections, the commission said.

A higher-than-expected turnout for the advance voting is drawing attention to whether turnout for Wednesday's elections could surpass 60 per cent.

The ruling Democratic Party is widely expected to clinch a sweeping victory on the back of strong public support for Moon and his drive for peace with North Korea.

Rival parties have been gauging the impact of the historic summit between US President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, which was held just a day earlier in Singapore.

The unprecedented event appeared to have already been factored into the local elections, but rapprochement on the Korean Peninsula is viewed as a boon for the liberal DP.

The LKP is hoping that "shy" conservative voters will come out after keeping a low profile on political issues.

The opposition party is still reeling from low public support following last year's ousting of former president Park Geun Hye due to a corruption scandal.