Exit polls in South Korea forecast win for liberal Moon

Moon Jae-in, the presidential candidate of the Democratic Party of Korea, is greeted by his supporters during his election campaign rally in Goyang, South Korea, May 4, 2017.

The election took place after the March 10th impeachment and arrest of former president Park Geun-hye over a massive corruption scandal.

Moon will preside over a country that faces Asia-Pacific's worst income inequality, rising youth unemployment, anemic growth, and widespread corruption in Korea's powerful family-owned conglomerates.

The vote will end a months-long leadership vacuum.

South Koreans voted Tuesday in a presidential election a conservative candidate declared a "war of regime choices" in stark contrast to the liberal front-runner looking to overturn a decade of right-leaning rule. She is in jail, on trial.

Conservative Hong Joon-Pyo - who dubs Mr Moon a "pro-Pyongyang leftist" was far behind on 23.3 per cent, with centrist Ahn Cheol-Soo third on 21.8.

China's official Xinhua news agency said in a commentary on Tuesday a new South Korean leader should "demonstrate its readiness to ease tensions" by calling off deployment of the THAAD, "which has proved useless in thwarting Pyongyang's nuclear and missile activities".

As if this could get any more awesome, they were also shown dabbing as the voting percentages were announced during a skit which pitted them as hip-hop artists vying for the win in a reality competition series. Other presidential candidates were also seen voting early in the day.

The commission expects final turnout of more than 80 percent, which would be the highest since President Kim Dae-jung was elected in 1997, when 80.7 percent of voters cast ballots. Last week a quarter of the voters took advantage of early voting. "Although THAAD is now open for renegotiation, President Moon is extremely unlikely to rattle the fundamentals of the relationship with the U.S". Nearly 2 percent higher than the 2012 presidential election turnout at the same time.

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The government halted the tour project at Mount Kumgang in July 2008 after a South Korean tourist was killed by a North Korean soldier there.

The winning candidate will be officially sworn in as South Korea's new president after the election commission finishes the vote count and declares the victor Wednesday morning.

He is likely to quickly name a prime minister, who will need parliamentary approval, and main cabinet positions, including national security and finance ministers, which do not need parliamentary confirmation.

The election is being watched closely by allies and neighbours at a time of high tension over North Korea's accelerating development of weapons. It conducted a fifth test in September and is believed to be preparing for another.

Moon will probably look to reverse three big Park policies: a deal to settle Japan's sexual enslavement of Korean women during World War II; the closure of the last major symbol of inter-Korean cooperation, a jointly run factory park in the North; and the deployment of a USA missile defense system that infuriates China.

Despite the global focus on North Korea, the biggest priorities for South Koreans were the economy and corruption. Its official Rodong Sinmun newspaper said in a commentary on Monday the time had come to put confrontation behind by ending conservative rule in the South. "To do so, the puppet conservative group's move to remain in power should be definitely crushed", it said.

On the square, freelancer Koh Eun-Byul, 28, told AFP: "I am so happy because now there is hope for some meaningful change".

Mr Moon, who favours engagement with North Korea, will immediately be thrust into a tense stand-off between the U.S. and Pyongyang over dictator Kim Jong-un's ambitions to develop an intercontinental ballistic missile [ICBM] capable of striking America with a nuclear warhead.

Park had decided not to vote, despite having the right to do so because she has not been convicted, media reported.

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