Campaigning for mayoral elections kicked off on Thursday in the South Korean capital Seoul and the country's second largest city, Busan.
The April 7 elections in the two major cities are de facto races between the ruling and opposition camps. They are regarded as an important precursor to the presidential election in March 2022.
In Seoul, former Start-ups Minister Park Young-sun is the candidate of the ruling Democratic Party, which backs President Moon Jae-in. Oh Se-hoon, who was the capital's mayor for five years through 2011, is representing the largest opposition People Power Party.
The leader of the centrist People's Party, Ahn Cheol-soo, withdrew his candidacy to support Oh.
There has been growing criticism of public officials in South Korea over allegations of illegal land transactions amid soaring real estate prices. A recent poll showed that the approval ratings for President Moon and the ruling party are on the decline.