04/09/2008, 00.00
SOUTH KOREA

Lee tries to confirm his victory in parliamentary elections

Just three months after his election, the newly-elected president expect South Korea’s 38 million eligible voters to hand him and his conservative Party a much needed majority if they want to implement the reforms they promised.

Seoul (AsiaNews/Agencies) – South Koreans go to the polls today to elect their 299-member National Assembly. The vote is seen as a test for President Lee Myung-bak who was elected to the highest office of the land last December. Mr Lee's conservative Grand National Party is counting on winning more seats than the liberal opposition United Democratic Party to begin implementing its much touted reforms. But a large number of voters remain undecided and Mr Lee’s popularity is already dipping, dampening Conservative hopes.

Mr Lee was elected on a platform that included economic reforms and getting tougher on North Korea, tying humanitarian aid for instance to Pyongyang’s ending its nuclear programme.

Almost in response to the Seoul’s new stance, North Korea has carried out new missile tests and closed its borders to South Korean humanitarian workers, and closed off the areas of Kŭmgangsan (Mount Kumgang) and Kaesŏng, two demilitarised areas where the Koreans from both sides worked together on humanitarian and industrial projects.

About 37.8 million people in South Korea are eligible to cast their ballots at some 13,250 polling stations. North Korea is not likely however to play any determining role in the outcome; the economy is said to be the main factor.

The new parliament will begin meeting May 30 for a four-year term.

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