The amount spent on by-elections over the past three years totaled 61.6 billion won ($54.4 million) and is to exceed 100 billion won with the Oct. 26 elections.
According to the state inspection data submitted by the National Election Commission to Rep. Yoon Sang-il of the minority Future Hope Alliance, 137 by-elections took place from 2008 up to the first half of this year.
Of the 61.6 million won, 18.3 billion won was spent on by-elections to select successors to public officials who lost seats because of election law violations.
Frequent by-elections impose a heavy financial burden on local autonomous governments. The amount paid in such races during the same period was 41.4 billion won, according to the data.
Of the 81 governing units which held by-elections, 49 were struggling financially, with 70 percent or more of their budgets dependent on central government subsidies.
“Considering invisible social costs in addition to actual expenses, frequent by-elections are causing enormous losses to the national economy,” said Yoon.
He urged parties to thoroughly inspect their candidates before nomination in order to prevent disqualification due to candidates’ irregularities.
“Unlike regular elections, by-elections are usually held to fill the vacuum caused by problems with the original candidates,” Yoon said. “Parties should take responsibility to reduce the resulting waste of tax revenue.”
Rep. Kim Choong-jo of the main opposition Democratic Party said during the state inspection that the latest April 27 by-elections alone cost 22 billion won.
“As by-election costs rise every year, so has the people’s distrust of politics,” said Kim. The upcoming by-elections, including one to select a new Seoul mayor, are to take place on Oct. 26.
By Bae Hyun-jung (firstname.lastname@example.org