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Former Seoul Mayor Predicted to Win S. Korean Presidency


Voting stations are now closed in South Korea's presidential vote, and exit polls so far show no deviation from the result many have expected for weeks. Former Seoul Mayor Lee Myung-bak is projected to win about half of the popular vote, despite a last minute flare-up of corruption allegations against him. VOA's Kurt Achin reports from Seoul.

Campaign officials at the headquarters of Lee Myung-bak's Grand National Party erupted into cheers Wednesday, as national news networks predicted a landslide victory in the presidential election.

Exit polls sponsored by national news networks predicted Lee would receive more than 50 percent of the popular vote - a result election officials say they will be able to confirm before midnight.

Lee's closest challenger, United New Democrat Party candidate Chung Dong-young, is projected to receive about 26 percent of the popular vote. Independent candidate Lee Hoi-chang is expected to garner about 14 percent.

Lee Myung-bak, a former Seoul mayor and corporate chairman, has promised to cut taxes, double per capita income, and boost South Korea's growth rate from the current four percent to seven percent. He has also said he will take a more "businesslike" approach to doling out South Korean aid and investment to North Korea.

That economically focused message has proven extremely popular among South Koreans, who blame outgoing President Roh Moo-hyun for stalling the economy. Many voters say supporting Lee is all about improving their bottom line.

Ji Seung-yong, a taxi driver in his 40's, says he supported Lee because he saw "no other option" for reviving the economy.

Lee's double-digit poll leads have persevered through months of allegations he once engaged in fraud and stock manipulation. South Korean prosecutors cleared him last week of formal charges, but lawmakers approved an independent counsel investigation of the matter this week.

South Korean officials say turnout reached a record low in this election, with only about 59 percent of the country's roughly 37 million eligible voters casting a ballot compared to about 70 percent five years ago.

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