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South Korea looks past Park as presidential election gets under way

Record turnout expected with electorate galvanised by indignation over sprawling bribery and abuse-of-power scandal that delivered down Park Geun-hye

South Koreans have gone to the polls to choose a brand-new chairperson after Park Geun-Hye was ousted and indicted for corruption. The election also reaches against a background of high-pitched tensions with the North over its nuclear weapons programme.

More than 139,000 voting terminals opened at 6am local occasion on Tuesday across the country under overcast skies. Account turnout was expected.

Voters have been galvanised with indignation over the sprawling bribery and abuse-of-power scandal that delivered down Park and catalysed frustrations over jobs and slowing growth.

Left-leaning Moon Jae-In, a former human rights lawyer, has maintained a commanding lead in opinion polls for months. The final Gallup Korea survey before a week-long pre-election blackout presented him 38% supporting, followed by former tech mogul Ahn Cheol-Soo on 20%.

Hong Joon-Pyo, of Parks Liberty Korea party, languished in third place in the fields of 13 nominees, with 16%.

Chung Tae-Wan, a 72 -year-old doctor, cast his ballot at a polling station in prosperous Seocho district in southern Seoul. I voted for Hong, as security[ against North Korea] is the most important thing, he told AFP.

Kim Kyung-Min, 24, said she cast her ballot in advance last week. I was so disappointed in Park and the establishment, she told AFP, but refused to say whom she voted for.

The campaign has focused largely on the economy, with North Korea less prominent as a question. But after a decade of republican rule a Moon victory could entail a sea change in Seouls approach towards both Pyongyang and key ally Washington.

The 64 -year-old, who is accused of being soft on the North by his critics, has advocated talk to defuse tensions and to deliver it to discussions, and is ensure to favour more independence in relations with the US, Seouls security guarantor with 28,500 troops in the country.

Seoul must be free to take the lead on matters in the Korean peninsula and South Koreans should not take the back seat, he said in a recent media interview.

Why Park Guen-Hye was impeached – explainer

The North has carried out two nuclear tests and a series of launchings since the start of 2016 in its quest to develop a missile capable of delivering a nuclear warhead to the US mainland.

Washington has said military action is an option, transmitting dreads of conflict spiralling. More lately Donald Trump has softened his message, “says hes” “wouldve been” honoured to meet the Norths leader, Kim Jong-un, for the purposes of the right circumstances.

Moon has said he would be willing to visit Pyongyang to meet Kim and preached resumption of some of the inter-Korea projects shuttered under his predecessors, including the Kaesong seam industrial zone.

But for many South Korean voters, corruption, slowing growing, unemployment, and even airborne pollutants from China top the roster of concerns.

South Koreas rapid growth from the 1970 s to 1990 s pulled a war-ravaged commonwealth out of poverty but slowed as the economy grew, and unemployment among under-3 0s is now at a record 10%.

Frustration over widening inequality in asset and opportunities fuelled indignation over Parks scandal, which exposed the cosy and corrupted ties between regulators and powerful family-oriented conglomerates, known as chaebols , that have stood for decades.

Park is awaiting test over corruption for offering governmental preferences to top industrialists including Samsung heir Lee Jae-Yong who bribed her secret confidante, Choi Soon-Sil.

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