Explainer-What's at stake in South Korea's election

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SEOUL - Campaigning for South Korea's legislative election is in full swing ahead of an April 10 vote that will decide the make-up of its 300-strong National Assembly. The assembly will set the agenda largely for domestic politics for the next four years.

WHY DOES THE ELECTION MATTER?

The election comes nearly two years after conservative President Yoon Suk Yeol won the 2022 presidential election defeating Lee Jae-myung of the Democratic Party by 0.73% - the slimmest margin in South Korean history.

Yoon has suffered from low approval ratings for months and will further lose momentum if his People Power Party performs poorly in the election or is unable to claim a majority in the parliament, currently dominated by the Democratic Party.

"With the opposition-led parliament, it has been hard to make a policy push or achievement over the last two years. Without change during the rest of his term, it would be extremely hard to do his job," said Lee Jun-han, professor of political science at Incheon National University.

Analysts said Seoul's foreign policy, which has sought closer ties with Washington and Tokyo under Yoon, will not change significantly whoever wins. South Korea's powerful presidency leaves little room for parliament to weigh in on the president's foreign policy agenda.

WHAT ARE THE KEY ISSUES?

In recent polls, the cost of living and high food inflation have emerged as key issues among voters. The price tag of green onions has made headlines after Yoon's visit to a supermarket.

Another issue is the prolonged doctors' strike by trainee doctors and some senior doctors. Yoon showed the first signs of flexibility in his medical reform plan this week.

Polls showed increasing public support for a compromise between the doctors and the government which plans to increase medical school admissions by 2,000 starting 2025.

Political parties have also vowed to tackle the fertility crisis with measures such as public housing and tax breaks. South Korea has the world's lowest fertility rate, or the average number of children born to a woman, and data shows it is likely to fall to 0.68 in 2024, past the figure of 0.78 in 2022, which was already a record low.

Corruption remains a major issue. Likely flashpoints are the ambassador to Australia who resigned last month amid controversy over his appointment while being under a corruption investigation and the...

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