South Koreans voted Tuesday for a new president, with victory widely predicted for a liberal candidate who has pledged to improve ties with North Korea, re-examine a contentious US missile defense shield and push sweeping economic changes.
"Pre-election surveys show liberal candidate Moon Jae-in comfortably leading his two main rivals â€" a centrist and a conservative. He has portrayed himself as pro-business and has taken a hard line against North Korea, calling on the United States to bring tactical nuclear weapons to South Korea.
All votes cast in advance will be kept sealed with those locked overseas to be brought back for official counting following the end of Tuesday's voting, the election watchdog added.
Some who are conservatives but did not support Ms Park through the corruption scandal and impeachment have thrown their support behind Mr Ahn, seeing him as a better leader than Mr Moon. In a televised debate last month, Moon agreed with rival conservative candidate Hong Joon-pyo, who said that gay soldiers were weakening the country's military.
"I felt the people's earnest desire for government change to create a country worthy of being called a country", he told reporters at the station set up at a middle school.
Park is now jailed at a detention centre near Seoul awaiting her trial on allegations that she extorted money from businesses, took kickbacks from some of those companies and committed other wrongdoing, all in collaboration with a longtime confidante.
In another opinion piece published Monday by the same newspaper, Pyongyang accused the South Korean conservatives of exploiting the security threat from North Korea in its electoral campaign. South Koreans voted Tuesday for a new president, with victory widely predicted for a liberal candidate who has pledged to improve ties with North Korea, re-examine a contentious USA missile defense shield and push sweeping economic changes.
Early voters can cast ballots Thursday and Friday at about 3,510 polling stations across the country before the election next Tuesday, the National Election Commission said in a statement. South Koreans are voting for a new president amid widespread expectations of victory for a liberal candidate who has pledged to improve ties with North Korea and review a contentious US missile defense shield.
Supporters of South Korean presidential candidate Hong Joon-pyo of the Liberty Korea Party shout his name during an election campaign in Seoul, South Korea, Monday, May 8, 2017.
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Beijing also told Pyongyang that it would not offer military assistance even if the USA makes a pre-emptive strike on the North. The North believes the US and South are seeking to assassinate Kim, said Professor Koh Yu-Hwan of Dongguk University.
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It's unclear whether they would be satisfied by reallocating some of the spending, shrinking the tax cuts, or some combination. One of those Americans with a pre-existing condition , who also happens to be a U.S.
Experts note that the United States already has the capability to defend against North Korean ballistic missiles and that the true threat to South Korea is from traditional artillery within range of Seoul, for which THAAD would be useless.
But North Korea's continued missile tests and threats have frightened many South Koreans, especially older ones, and Hong has experienced a modest surge. Korean society is divided into those who want fundamental political and economic reform and those who remain sympathetic to Park.
North Korea says it's detained another US citizen.
Prime Minister Hwang Kyo-ahn, who took over for former president Park Geun-hye, will not be running in the election.
Frustration over widening inequality in wealth and opportunities fuelled anger over Park's scandal, which exposed the cosy and corrupt ties between regulators and powerful family-oriented conglomerates, known as chaebols, that have endured for decades. Many of those legacies dated to the dictatorship of Park's father, Park Chung-hee, whose 18-year rule was marked by both rapid economic rise and severe civil rights abuse. He's a human rights lawyer. Fewer South Koreans still believe economic assistance could get the North to abandon its nuclear ambitions. And there is still opposition in South Korea, and China, to the US installation of Terminal High Altitude Area Defense, or THAAD missile-defense system.
Moon has said the U.S. alliance was South Korea's most important national security foundation, and has pledged to "fully consult" with the US. But THAAD has put a strain on Seoul's relations with Beijing: Korean businesses operating in China have suffered from consumer boycotts, while Chinese tourism volumes to Korea have also declined. He won support from those previously backing Yu Seung-min, another conservative candidate who broke with the Saenuri Party, supported the impeachment of Park, and is promising a clean government.
Many analysts say Moon, if elected, likely won't pursue drastic rapprochement policies because North Korea's nuclear program has progressed signficantly since he was in the Roh government a decade ago.
Last month, even before Trump boosted ire in the country, South Korean protesters had already begun demonstrating against what they saw as a USA rush to get THAAD deployed before the election.