SKorea election: Live Report
- Published: 19/12/2012 at 03:46 PM
- Online news:
This ends AFP's Live Report on the South Korean presidential election with exit polls showing only the slimmest of margins between the two candidates in a potentially historic poll for the country..
South Koreans vote in the presidential election at a polling station in Nonsan, 150kms south of Seoul, on December 19, 2012. South Koreans went to the polls to choose a new president in a close and potentially historic election that could result in Asia's fourth-largest economy getting its first female leader.
As polling booths closed at 6:00 pm (0900 GMT), a joint exit poll by three TV stations gave Park 50.1 percent of the vote, with 48.9 percent for Moon. The closeness of the figures now means that no clear result is likely to emerge until around midnight local time (15:00GMT) according to South Korea's main television channel KBS.
One of Park's top campaign staffers, Kwon Young-Se, said the party was "pleased" by the slim lead in exit polls, but would remain "humble" until all the votes were in.
Jin Sung-Mee, a spokeswoman for Moon's DUP said they still saw "a ray of hope."
Whether the country gets its first woman president or not, the eventual occupant of the presidential Blue House will have to deal with a host of problems which clearly motivated the electorate to come out and vote despite the bitterly cold weather. According to the electoral commission the provisional turnout is 75.8 percent, well above the 63 percent seen at the last election.
11:05 GMT: Outside Moon's apartment, which has been decorated with green and yellow message cards from his supporters, only a few supporters are still wondering around. The candidate himself is inside watching the results.
Park's supporters were more boisterous earlier on, cheering and shouting as the early exit polls came in showing a slim lead, but both groups now face a long and cold wait, for the final results.
10:28 GMT: "I was going to vote for Ahn because I had so much distrust about typical politicians and he appeared so fresh and different. Now that he's gone, I have no real interest in the election. The other politicians look pretty much the same," 33-year-old store owner Jang Ji-Young, told AFP earlier.
10:17 GMT: Hahm Chai-Bong, president of the Asan Institute for Policy Studies, believes the reason for Ahn's popularity was his ability to tap into a generation "that, really for the first time, did not view the struggle for democracy and economic growth as diametrically opposed experiences."
"For them, Ahn had a real appeal, he was different and not from the political establishment," Hahm told AFP earlier.
Ahn withdrew to avoid splitting the liberal vote and handing the election to Park.
10:11 GMT: As the votes are counted the real contest is for the centre ground, occupied by a growing middle class concerned about economic security and social inequality. Both candidates have gone after it but neither has met with the success of independent campaigner and software mogul Ahn Cheol-Soo.
Ahn, who bowed out of the race to throw support behind Moon, cast his vote earlier in the day then headed for the airport to catch a flight to San Francisco, "to take a rest" for a few months, according to his spokesman.
09:56 GMT: "The polls showed we were slightly behind, but we still see a ray of hope because it's within the margin of error," says Jin Sung-Mee, spokeswoman for Moon's Democratic United Party (DUP).
09:53 GMT: "We're pleased," says Kwon Young-Se, one of Park's top campaign staff. "Exit polls are still preliminary results, so we will watch with a humble mind until all the votes are counted."
09:50 GMT: My colleague Nam You-Sun is reporting a contrast between the reactions of the two camps and not just at party headqarters.
In Gumi, just outside her father's hometown, dozens of supporters wearing red parkas and red scarves were cheering for Park, while her house in Seoul is surrounded by supporters waving flags and cheering.
In Geoje city, Moon's hometown, however, dozens of elderly viewers could be seen watching their televisions grimly, no cheering, while at his party headquarters there was little reaction.
09:40 GMT: Park's supporters at New Frontier Party (NFP) headquarters seem to have been cheered by the early exit polls, jumping up with arms raised as the data was flashed on TV monitors.
There has, however, been no concession or claim of victory by either side.
09:30 GMT: The event is also being marked in other parts of the country. Yonhap is reporting that the Joongang Movie Theatre, the only theatre in Jeongeup city, is offering 50 percent off to anyone who shows proof of voting, while a chain of stores in Jeolloa Province is giving out free fabric softener and eggs to customers who show the same proof.
09:23 GMT: And speaking of celebrities Moon has promised supporters he will perform Psy's Gangnam Style dance if he wins tonight, although South Korea's most famous cultural export, Psy, is not actually in the country for the election, and his spokeswoman declined to tell AFP if he cast an absentee ballot.
09:20 GMT: Not that it's only the young who have enjoyed taking snaps. Celebrities have been busy posting shots of themselves outside polling stations on twitter.
Female singing star Lee Hyo-Ri tweeted a picture of herself outside a polling station with the tag "Done voting!", as did fellow star Byul who tweeted, "Proof! As a proud Korean, we've put our valuable votes. You should all vote," and posted a picture with her husband.
09:13 GMT: On an interesting note, my colleague Nam You-Sun tells me that young voters snapping themselves outside polling stations have had to be very careful they avoid their ubiquitous habit of flashing a V-sign, or taking pictures with a voting sheet as South Korea's strict election laws prohibit any public display of candidate preference on election day, and with the candidates numbered 1 (Park) and 2 (Moon), a thumbs-up sign or V-sign could be misconstrued.
09:09 GMT: The exit polls gave Park 50.1 percent of the vote, compared to 48.9 percent for Moon -- a lead of 1.2 percent that is inside the margin of error.
The exit polls carry a margin of error of plus or minus 0.8 percent
09:03 GMT: The first exit polls are giving a slight edge to Park, according to TV reports.
09:00 GMT: Well the polls have now closed on what is apparently the coldest presidential election since 1987, which was actually the country's first direct presidential election. According to Yonhap the mercury in Seoul dropped to -10.3 Celsius today.
08:57 GMT: There is also a difference in leadership style, with Park promising a somewhat paternal approach.
"Like a mother who dedicates her life to her family, I will become the president who takes care of the lives of each one of you," Park said in her last televised news conference on Tuesday.
Certainly a woman president will make a difference in a country where women occupy a mere 15 percent of seats in parliament and only 12 percent of managerial posts in the private sector, and earn on average 40 percent less than men.
08:52 GMT: It is also worth noting the contrast in the backgrounds of the two candidates. Park's father remains one of modern Korea's most polarising figures -- admired for dragging the country out of poverty and reviled for his ruthless suppression of dissent during 18 years of military rule.
He was shot dead by his spy chief in 1979. Park's mother had been killed five years earlier by a pro-North Korea gunman aiming for her father.
Moon, who was chief of staff to the late left-wing president Roh Moo-Hyun, is a former human rights lawyer who was once jailed for protesting against the Park Chung-Hee regime.
08:50 GMT: Park has also tried to keep voters minds on the potentially historic nature of the election, telling them "electing the country's first female president will be the biggest change and political reform we ever achieve," Park told a group of women leaders recently.
Not everyone has been won over, however.
"For the past 15 years, Park has shown little visible effort to help women in politics or anywhere else as a policymaker," said Kim Eun-Ju, executive director of the Centre for Korean Women and Politics, who believes Park is a female political leader "only in biological terms."
Kang Kum-Sil, the country's first female justice minister from 2003-04, also questions Park's sudden play for female voters after a decade of remaining largely silent.
"How shameless of Park... being a woman is not a tool you can use in a rushed attempt to win more votes," Kang said.
O8:45 GMT: Always in the minds of South Koreans, is the communist North, with which they fought a bitter war between 1950 and 1953 which has left the two sides divided by a heavily defended demilitarized zone. The war ended with an armistice and no full peace treaty has yet been signed.
Nerves in the South were frayed last week by the North's decision to launch a long-range rocket, which it insisted was solely intended to put a satelitte into orbit, but which critics suggested was a disguised ballistic missile test.
Both candidates have signalled a desire for greater engagement with Pyongyang, Park's approach is far more cautious than Moon's promise to resume aid without preconditions and seek an early summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un.
0842 GMT: As the polls prepare to close a quick look at some of the key issues of the election.
Economic concerns have been the main issue, as the global downturn has put the brakes on growth, fuelling anxiety over jobs, social welfare and income disparity.
Moon has unveiled a $20 billion job package that includes promises to raise the minimum wage and halve the number of temporary workers in the private sector by making them full-time employees.
Park has not called for additional spending, but says her government would encourage the creation of start-ups, help train laid-off workers to find new work and launch a nationwide database for job seekers.
08:38 GMT: Turnout could prove critical. Park is popular among the older voters who are also the most dependable. Moon's camp has been out trying to encourage the younger demographic to get out and vote. This apparent generational divide has been illustrated in some interesting ways.
My colleague Lim Chang-Won witnessed a stand-up political row between one mother and grown-up daughter who perhaps unwisely decided to vote together. Eventually they cast their votes in stony silence and went their separate ways.
Another colleague, Jung Ha-Won spoke to one 61-year-old retiree, Jung Yun-Kang, who was quite open about his choice.
"Lady, look how old I am. My choice is obvious," the ex-banker said. "I've long ago reached an age when you become politically conservative and seek stability over everything."
08:33 GMT: The candidates have been doing their best to encourage people to come out to vote.
"It's freezing cold, but I plead with the people to come out and vote to open a new era for this country," Park, wrapped up in a long coat and red scarf, said as she cast her ballot in Seoul.
"This election is about our livelihoods, economic democracy, welfare and peace on the Korean peninsula," Moon said as he voted in the southern city of Busan.
08:32 GMT: With just under 30 minutes until the polls close, voter turnout appears to have been strong despite the bitterly cold weather. Long queues formed at many polling stations with voters standing patiently in the snow and slush for up to 40 minutes before getting in to vote.
As of 5:00 pm (0800GMT) the turnout had reached 70.1 percent, well above the 63.0 percent in the 2007 election. Yonhap is forecasting final turnout will be even higher.
Welcome to AFP's Live Report on South Korea's presidential election that could result in Asia's fourth-largest economy selecting its first female leader.
The ballot is a straight fight between Park Geun-Hye, the conservative daughter of assassinated dictator Park Chung-Hee, and her liberal rival Moon Jae-In, the son of North Korean refugees.
Opinion polls indicate the result could go either way, but if Park does win she will be making history by becoming the first female president of a still male-dominated nation, and the first to be related to a former leader.
About the author
- Writer: AFP
Position: News agency