9 heads of low-level administrative units
Though some female candidates won their seat, no woman was elected as a mayor nor a provincial governor. The only female, independent nominee for mayor Lee Jeongsook gained just 1.4% of the vote and failed to grab her chance.
Meanwhile, nine out of 40 female candidates for the heads of low-level administrative units were successfully elected, up by three compared to the local elections in 2010 when six out of 26 women nominees won a seat. Indeed, female political representation in the local elections has improved gradually from one in 1995 to nine this year, with four in Seoul, two in Busan, one in Daegu, Bucheon, and Gwacheon, respectively.
Among the 25 districts of Seoul, the Gangnam District was dominated by women: The incumbent Gangnam District Chief Shin Yeonhee of the Saenuri Party won a landslide victory, with 61.3% of the vote, against the New Politics Alliance for Democracy (NPAD) female candidate Kim Myungshin who gained 35.4%. Also, the incumbent Songpa District Chief Park ChunHee easily retained her position, with 53.6% of the vote, against the NPAD candidate Park Yongmo who received 43.9%. These victories confirmed the competitiveness of Shin and Park who readily won primary elections.
The Seocho District Chief nominee Choi Eunhee of the ruling party got 49.9% of the vote and defeated her rival Gwak Sehyun of the opposition party. In the Yangcheon District, the NPAD candidate Kim Suyoung, the wife of former chief Lee Jehak, won in a neck and neck race against the Saenuri candidate Oh Kyunghoon by 1.2 percentage points.
In Busan, the incumbent Jung District Chief Kim Eunsook of the Saenuri won her third consecutive race with 50.2%, while the incumbent Sasang District Chief Song Sukhee of the Saenuri was elected with 63.7%. In Daegu, the incumbent Jung District Chief Yun Soonyoung of the Saenuri overwhelmingly won 61.3% of the vote and began her third term.
The Gender Politics Research Institute Director Oh Yuseok said "Quite a few women candidates won their elections, overturning a long-held argument that women are unlikely to win in a region dominated by male politicians. The District of Yangcheon provides a good example. Also, it is worth noting that a female nominee of the opposition party gained victory in Bupyung, one of strongholds of the ruling party."
In Incheon and Gyeonggi designated to prioritize female candidates in the nomination process, some women secured a position: The incumbent Bupyung District Chief Hong Miyoung of the NPAD received 48.9% of the vote and won re-election. In Gwacheon, Shin Gyeyong of the Saenuri was elected as the first female mayor in 19 years, with 33.1%. On the other hand, in Icheon, Kim Kyunghee lost against Choi Byungdon of the NPAD by 1.2 percentage points.
For this year, women took up around 10% of the nominees: 12.7% for the Saenuri Party and 14.4% for the NPAD. One out of 57 candidates for the 17 key positions, 40 out of 694 candidates for the heads of low-level administrative units, 198 out of 1719 provincial council candidates, 757 out of 5377 municipal council candidates, 161 out of 228 proportional representative provincial council candidates, 668 out of 742 proportional representative municipal council candidates, and two superintendent candidates were women, totaling 1827. Though 171 more women were registered as a candidate since the last election in 2010, men did four times better than women.
While women represent 65% of 435,000 elementary, middle, and high school teachers, as of 2012, no one out of the two female superintendent nominees, with Im Hyekyung in Busan and Lee Miyoung in North Jeolla, was elected. This is much worse than the last election when five were elected.
The voter turnout failed to exceed the threshold of 60% and reached 56.8%, up 2.3 percentage points from 2010. It was the second-highest turnout, after the first local elections in 1995 which had 68.4%.
Held around 50 days after the ferry disaster which left more than 300 passengers dead or missing, mostly Danwon High School students, the election was considered a test for President Park Geunhye and her administration. While the ruling party staked its campaign on President Park’s pledge to reform government bureaucracy, the opposition party used the recent disaster to strengthen their argument for judging the government for its incompetence and negligence. Despite such efforts, the election showed split in vote.
Min Consulting Poll Center Director Yoon Heewoong said "Compared to 2010, this year’s voter turnout was quite high; The recent ferry tragedy had an important role to play in encouraging people who support the opposition party to cast a ballot. And without a doubt, many older people voted in the election. However, the disaster, though painful, did not influence people’s views much. Many stuck to a fixed belief that the governing party should resolve problems that lie ahead of us."