The following is a reworked article by the author which first appeared on KCTV English News. — Ed.

Campaigning in South Korea’s 6th local elections is heating up ahead of the June 4 vote next Wednesday. Early voting opened Friday, with a second chance for voters to get their ballots in on Saturday.

On Jeju there are a total of 43 positions up for grabs, including 36 provincial council seats and five education committee member seats, according to the National Election Commission.

Jeju’s voters have five ballots — the superintendent of education, the governorship, education committee members, provincial council members and the proportional representation council members.

At present, the fight for the governorship is a two-way competition between Saenuri Party candidate Won Hee-ryong and former governor Shin Goo-beom, who is nominee for the New Politics Alliance for Democracy, or NPAD.

According to a KCTV-Halla Ilbo poll from Monday, May 26, Won was way out ahead at almost 59.8 percent, while Shin had 24.7 percent of the vote. Won’s platform focuses on making the government more accessible to the people, while Shin is promising a 4 trillion won public fund.

At a party-level, Saenuri policies include resolving issues surrounding the April 3rd Incident, completing the Jeju Naval Base, expanding infrastructure for a new airport, and establishing countermeasures to protect products in the China-Korea FTA.

NPAD, meanwhile, has a 10-point platform promising the expansion of airport infrastructure, the creation of a resort area focusing on culture and tourism, the integration of green energy industries, and improvements to public transportation, among other issues.

There are 228 polling stations on the island, which are open from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. This year early voting will help workers who cannot get to the polls on June 4. Voters need only show a government-issued ID, such as a resident card, a Korean driver’s license, or a passport.

According to government figures, the number of eligible voters here is 467,182, the majority of which are in their 40s. Looking at the numbers by gender, there are 4,974 more women voters than men. There are also 8,568 first-time voters, those who turned 19.

Another interesting statistic is that the number of non-Koreans eligible to vote has quadrupled from the 2010 elections. Just over 48,000 non-Koreans, permanent residents who have held an F5 visa for 3 years, can vote nationwide, though the majority live in Seoul and Gyeonggi Province.

As for recent developments during the run-up to the election, the Sewol disaster cast a dark shadow over the campaign, prompting candidates to voluntarily suspend their campaigns for a number of weeks. Those have since restarted, but things compared with other elections, campaign activities were definitely toned down. There were fewer eye-catching techniques being used on the streets, like hiring students to wear the candidates’ party colors while singing and dancing.

Another surprise came in mid-April, when current governor Woo Keun-min announced he would not run for reelection. The 72-year-old served 12 years in total in the top job, having been appointed twice and elected three times.

Moreover, it was reported that about 40 percent of Jeju’s 109 election candidates have some sort of criminal record. This made news after the Jeju Election Commission released candidates’ records and it was found that 42 individuals had been punished or fined over 1 million won for gambling, drunk driving, and violence.

Police have also been cracking down on illegal electioneering. In March, the Jeju Provincial Police Agency boosted the number of people assigned to the elections from 60 to 80. Investigators are now working around the clock to identify three major types of election violations: vote buying, the spreading false information about candidates, and campaign intervention by public officials.

On April 5, another law went into effect for the final 60 days of the elections, forbidding the heads of local governments from holding any political events or showing any support for specific candidates, among other activities.

As of May 27, there have been 46 election violations, whereas in the entire 2010 local elections, police punished 47 people for involvement in 25 election violations.

In order to keep candidates on message, the Jeju Election Commission issued a “Ten Item Policy Agenda” in February.

These are:

1. The local economy and job market

2. Issues surrounding April 3rd Incident

3. Public and private education

4. Products in S. Korea-China FTA

5. Social safety net for underprivileged

6. Jeju Naval Base conflict

7. Development between old and new city areas

8. Construction of a new airport

9. Local government autonomy

10. Environmental conservation

For more information about South Korea’s 6th local elections, the National Election Commission and the Korean Civic Education Institute for Democracy both have Web sites in English.

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