Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Economy Key in South Korea Election

As South Koreans headed to the polls for their country’s presidential election on Wednesday, voters appeared ready to choose Lee Myung-bak, a pro-business candidate identified with the nation’s economic growth but bedeviled by corruption charges.

According to Reuters, the National Election Commission said turnout as of mid-afternoon was down by about 7 percent from the same time five years ago, when the race was very close.

Pollsters say they expect about 60 percent of the country’s 37.7 million voters to cast ballots, down from 71 percent in 2002.

South Koreans’ concern about their economy, squeezed between high-tech Japan and low-cost China, runs so deep that renewed charges this week of ethical lapses by Mr. Lee failed to shatter their belief that it was time to elect a man considered capable of reviving the economy, pollsters said.

To many here, Mr. Lee, the conservative candidate from the opposition Grand National Party who has promised to become the “economy president,” represents “old Korea,” an era when an ability to create jobs and keep the economy growing was seen as paramount for a national leader.

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