05/08/2017, 19.26
SOUTH KOREA
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As South Koreans vote for president tomorrow, Pyongyang hopes for dialogue

Liberal Democratic candidate Moon Jae-in remains the favorite. The paper of North Korea’s ruling party hopes to see conservatives out: they are too close to Trump.

Seoul (AsiaNews/Agencies) – On the eve of South Korea’s election to choose a successor to ousted president Park Geun-hye, the candidates made last-ditch efforts to sway voters.

In North Korea, local media expressed hope that the new president will not be a conservative so as to favour dialogue and peace in the Korean peninsula.

The latest polls show that Moon Jae-in of the liberal Democratic Party of Korea with a solid lead with some 35-40 per cent of support, whilst his two main rivals, Ahn Cheol-soo of the centrist People’s Party and Hong Joon-pyo of the conservative Liberty Korea Party, are tied in second place at 18.6 per cent. Since then, a blackout has been in place.

Front-runner Moon spent the last full day of campaign in the country's second-largest city, Busan, and will return to Seoul to sign off his campaigning.

Busan, a port city some 450 kilometers southeast of Seoul, apparently holds the most swing votes for the liberal candidate as it is considered the traditional conservative stronghold.

The 64-year-old Catholic is also set to make brief stops in Daegu, another stronghold of conservative parties, located 300 kilometers southeast of Seoul.

Hong Joon-pyo, the leading conservative candidate from the Liberty Korea Party, was expected to defend his power base, also traveling to Busan and Daegu. But he too will wrap up his campaign in the capital, in the college district of Hongdae in northwestern Seoul, at midnight.

Ahn Cheol-soo of the center-left People's Party was focusing his last minute efforts on Daejeon and Chungcheong provinces, in the central region, which are often seen as swing areas in elections.

South Koreans are voting seven months earlier than expected because the country’s first female president, Park Geun-hye, was impeached and removed from office. Since March, she has been in jail, waiting trial over charges of corruption and abuse of power involving electronics giant Samsung.

Since Park vacated the presidency Prime Minister Hwang Kyo-ahn has served as acting president, but he is running for the office.

Voting will start tomorrow at 6 am until 8 pm. Some 42 million people are eligible to vote. The winner will be announced in the early hours of 10 May, and will be sworn for a full five-year term immediately, without the two-month transition, as required in impeachment cases.

Elections come at a time of rising tensions on the peninsula. North Korea has carried out three missile tests last month (two of which failed) in violation of United Nations Security Council resolutions.

South Korea’s ally, the United States, has threatened to use of military force several times and installed the THAAD anti-missile system in the South.

Twenty-four hours before the vote, North Korea has waded into the election, calling for a democratic president to end the inter-Korean conflict and bring peace.

"The tragic North-South Korea relations today have been wrought by the conservative groups which, having been in power for the past 10 years, revived the foregone period of confrontation and maximized the political and military rivalry between the same race," the leading ruling party newspaper, Rodong Sinmun, said in a column on its Monday issue.

"Our people's yearning for peace has been mercilessly trodden by the conservative groups, manic followers of confrontation," it added. "The history of inter-Korean confrontation, led by the conservatives, should be put to an end and a new era of unification should open up in collaboration between our race. To that end, the conservative groups' scheme to seize power again should be resolutely shattered."

Moon, the son of North Korean refugees, has the softest approach to Pyongyang among the top contenders. “He won’t just follow the footsteps of Trump all the time,” said Nam Chang-hee, a professor at Inha University who has advised the South Korea’s Unification Ministry.

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