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Opposition wins by landslide in Seoul, Busan mayoral elections

Oh Se-hoon, candidate of the main opposition People Power Party, celebrates with party members while watching monitors broadcasting the results of exit polls for the Seoul mayoral by-election at the party's headquarters on April 7, 2021, in Seoul, South Korea. (Song Kyung-seok/Pool Photo via AP)

SEOUL (Kyodo) -- South Korea's main opposition People Power Party won by a landslide in Wednesday's mayoral elections in the country's two largest cities, Seoul and Busan, sending a shockwave to the administration of President Moon Jae In less than a year from the next presidential election.

    "I take the people's reproach seriously. I will work on state affairs with a more humble attitude and a grave sense of responsibility," Moon said after the elections, according to presidential office spokesman Kang Min Seok.

    In the capital, Oh Se Hoon of the conservative People Power Party beat Park Young Sun of the ruling liberal Democratic Party by 18 percentage points, according to the final results released Thursday by the National Election Commission.

    In the southern port city of Busan, a traditional conservative stronghold, People Power Party candidate Park Heong Joon defeated Democratic Party candidate Kim Young Choon by 28 points.

    The two by-elections were closely watched as they served as a barometer of public sentiment ahead of the presidential election next March.

    Opinion polls had shown the ruling party candidates trailing their opposition rivals in both cities, reflecting falling public support for Moon over soaring housing prices and scandals involving a state-run housing corporation.

    "I would really like to be of help in any way possible for those Seoul citizens that are going through difficult times due to the coronavirus and many other economic crises," Oh said on Thursday morning as he returned to the office he occupied until 10 years ago.

    Oh, who served as Seoul mayor from 2006 to 2011, was the last conservative mayor of the capital city.

    Park Heong Joon, the new Busan mayor, was a senior secretary to Lee Myung Bak during his presidency.

    Former Prime Minister Lee Nak Yon, who served as head of the Democratic Party's election campaign, expressed regret over the election results, saying the party "could not fully understand the people's disappointment and frustration."

    "We could not take care of hardships in their lives sufficiently," said Lee, who was until now seen as a likely major presidential contender, in a Facebook post.

    The Democratic Party had not lost any major elections for the past five years. The newly elected mayors will serve the remaining term of their predecessors until June 30, 2022.

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