05/09/2017, 12.49
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Seoul, presidential elections: By midday turnout over 50%

The nuclear threat, the economic crisis and the park's impeachment have resulted in a 10 percentage point vote rate higher than in 2012. The favorite candidate, Moon Jae-in, opens a dialogue with North Korea, which make a suggestion for his candidacy

Seoul (AsiaNews / Agencies) – There is already a record turnout at South Korean presidential elections, according to the National Election Commission, which underlines the strong public interest in the election of the new president who will lead the country over the next five years.

After the first case in the country's history of deposing a president for corruption, turnout reached 55.4% by midday, seven hours after the opening of the polls. 26.06% who participated in the special voting section last week for those who are unable to go to the polling booths must be added to this figure. The participation rate is 10.1 percentage points higher than the 45.3 percent registered at the same time during the last presidential elections in 2012. If the participation rate exceeds 80 percent, it will be comparable to the record of the 1997 presidential elections.

The number of voters is also high: in fact, 42.48 million have the right to vote, 82% of the population of 51 million people. South Koreans must choose between 13 candidates, but the challenge lies between Democratic candidate Moon Jae-in, given as a favorite, and centrist Ahn Cheol-soo, judged by pollsters as his main challenger.

The election was called to vote after the corruption scandal involving former President Park Geun-hye. "I have heard the people's serious desire is for government change and create a country worthy of this name," Moon told reporters at the polling station set up in a high school in the capital where he went with his wife to vote.

This election campaign is closely monitored by international public opinion given the growing tensions with North Korea and the economic crisis. Internal security has been a constant concern at all stages of the electoral campaign. Moon wants to increase dialogue with North Korea, while maintaining pressures and sanctions, in contrast to the policies of former leader Park who cut almost all ties. He therefore criticized the two previous conservative administrations because they did not prevent the development of North Korean armaments.

On the other hand, North Korea has made a clear suggestion of who it would like to be the winner of these elections. A party daily editorial argued that the current North and South relationship was built by the conservative South Korean groups that have been in power for the past ten years and who "have maximized political and military rivalry within the same people" . A position in favor of Moon, who in the past was one of the architects of the so-called Sunshine Policy, when Pyongyang and Seoul were able to communicate and collaborate. A policy that stopped in 2008 when North Korea began experimenting with nuclear devices but had already received a hard blow in 2006 when South Korea stopped sending aid to the North.

On the economic front, the program appears the same for all candidates, namely the need to protect the fragile recovery of the fourth most important production sector in Asia and to reduce the youth unemployment that is steadily growing. There were also many pledges to put a stop to the privileges of the South Korean political class and to reform the family conglomerates - chaebols - that dominate the domestic economy.

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