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S.Korean Exit Polls Suggest Tight Presidential Race


South Koreans wait in line to cast their votes in a presidential election at a polling station in Seoul, South Korea, December 19, 2012.

South Koreans wait in line to cast their votes in a presidential election at a polling station in Seoul, South Korea, December 19, 2012.

Exit polling data conducted jointly by three broadcasters in South Korea indicate Park Geun-hye has slightly above a one percent lead over her opponent in the country's presidential election.

If the combined projections from three South Korean broadcasting stations prove accurate, Saenuri Party candidate Park Geun-hye will be the country's next president.

The exit survey indicate Park has 50.1 percent of the vote and Moon Jae-in of the Democratic United Party 48.9 percent. But those numbers lie right on the edge of the survey's stated one-point-two percent margin of error.

Thus analysts say the race is too close to call.

Turnout was high -- surpassing the two previous presidential elections -- despite sub-freezing temperatures across the country. Voters, bundled in their thickest winter clothing and stomping their feet to stay warm, waited in long lines to get into polling stations.

At a polling station in the capital, 51-year-old Chun Dae-young, noted he has never had to line up before to vote. The small business owner expressed sentiments typical of Moon's supporters.

Chun says he wants “to live in a society where law, common sense and rules are recognized.” He says the system must respect small and medium-sized enterprises and protect the weak. He says he wants the next president to make his dreams come true.

Twenty-three year-old student Kang Eun-jeong, unlike the majority of younger voters, cast her ballot for Park and expects to see the country's first female president.

Kang says she knows her friends and colleagues have a different opinion about who should be president, but notes Park's father held the post for 16 years and his daughter “can do well as she has a lot of political experience.”

The incumbent, President Lee Myung-bak of the Saenuri Party, is limited to a single five-year term. He was elected in 2007.

The new president, who will take office February 25th, will confront a widening income disparity amid a slowing economy, soaring welfare costs for an aging population and the ever-present threat posed by North Korea.

During the campaign, Moon said he wanted to hold a summit with North Korea in the first year of his presidency. Park declared no such meeting could take place unless Pyongyang apologizes for military provocation it has conducted in recent years.

Moon wants modifications to the controversial free trade agreement with the United States while Park says it is generally satisfactory.

Both candidates support the long-standing military alliance with the United States.

Moon's campaign received a boost after an independent and a far-left candidate both dropped out.
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