SEOUL – South Korean voters head to the polls on Tuesday to elect a successor to disgraced former president Park Geun Hye, who was forced to leave office in March over a corruption scandal.
A poll taken shortly before the election showed that corruption and reforms are the most important topics for voters in Asia’s fourth-largest economy.
The country, famed for its technological exports, faces growing youth unemployment, high rates of household debt and fear of poverty among the elderly.
The winner of Tuesday’s vote will also be expected to deal with escalating tensions with neighbouring North Korea, after US President Donald Trump threatened to take unilateral action against the country for recent ballistic missile and nuclear tests.
A high turnout is expected after more than 11 million of the country’s 42.5 million registered voters took part in early voting last week, according to South Korea’s Chosun Ilbo newspaper.
Surveys prior to election day showed former human rights lawyer Moon Jae In, who lost to Park in the 2012 election, with the best chance of becoming South Korea’s president for the next five years.
The 64-year-old centre-left candidate advocates closer ties with North Korea’s communist government, but has also stressed the importance of the US alliance.
Moon’s main competitors are Ahn Cheol Soo, a 55-year-old former software developer who formed Korea’s now third-largest political party, the People’s Party; and conservative former prosecutor Hong Jun Pyo, whose views on foreign and security policy are most similar to Park’s.