Democratic Party of Korea's Lee Jae-myung (left) and People Power Party's Yoon Suk-yeol (Yonhap)
Polls opened across South Korea at 6 a.m. Wednesday in a presidential election that many voters described as a contest of who’s the least worst.
Average voter turnout for 9 a.m was reported to be 8.1 percent nationwide, slightly lower than the 9.4 percent at the same time in the previous presidential election in 2017.
Lee Jae-myung of the liberal ruling Democratic Party of Korea is vying against Yoon Suk-yeol of the conservative opposition People Power Party in a neck-and-neck race. Exit poll results will be announced at 7:30 p.m. by major broadcasters.
Koreans born before March 11, 2004, are eligible to vote at 14,464 polling stations nationwide. Balloting will continue until 6 p.m., after which COVID-19 patients and those in quarantine will be able to vote until 7:30 p.m.
Nearly 37 percent of voters have already cast their ballots in March 4-5 early voting.
The two front-runners, while both students of law, come from contrasting backgrounds.
Lee, born to a poor family, was a factory worker in his teens. He worked his way up to becoming a lawyer, later the mayor of Seongnam and then governor of Gyeonggi Province, the most populous region in the country.
Yoon, born to a university professor father, was a prosecutor whose investigations on the Lee Myung-bak and Park Geun-hye administrations put him in the national spotlight. He clashed with the Moon Jae-in administration over prosecutorial reform policies and has become one of Moon’s harshest critics.
The race has been marred by scandals involving family members, allegations of corruption and abuse of power and mudslinging.
Whoever wins will get a single, five-year term as the 20th president of South Korea.
By Yoon Min-sik (firstname.lastname@example.org