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Opposition Sweeps South Korean Election - 2002-06-13

Exit polls indicate that South Korea's opposition Grand National Party swept local government elections Thursday. The vote is seen as a barometer of public sentiment ahead of a presidential election December 19.

According to exit polls, record-low voter turnout hurt President Kim Dae-jung's Millennium Democratic Party in the election for more than 4,400 local posts.

Exit polls show that the opposition GNP captured seven of nine provincial governerships. The GNP also appears to have won mayoral races in key cities such as the capital Seoul, the country's second city Pusan and the port of Inchon.

Many voters apparently stayed away from voting stations and instead watched the World Cup football finals. Voter apathy after a series of corruption scandals involving government officials, their family members and their aides also discouraged voters. The National Election Commission estimates that turnout was likely around 45-percent, a sharp drop from 68-percent in 1995 and 52-percent in 1998.

South Korean voters will choose a successor to President Kim on December 19. The constitution bars the Nobel Prize winner from running again when his five-year term wraps up next February.