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S. Koreans begin voting for a new President

March 09, 2022 - Wednesday 2:03 PM by Carby Rose Basina

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On Wednesday, Mar. 9, 44 million South Koreans began voting for the country's next president, with economic inequality as a primary concern despite escalating saber-rattling from the nuclear-armed North.

Polling booths opened at 6am (2100 GMT) and will close at 6 pm. For 90 minutes after closing, COVID-positive voters will be allowed to cast their ballots.

South Korea is experiencing an Omicron outbreak, with over 200,000 new cases reported on most days this month.

According to health officials, more than a million people are currently isolating at home after testing positive. Last month, the government modified its election regulations to ensure that they would be able to vote.

Last week, a record-breaking 37 percent of the 44 million individuals eligible to vote cast ballots in a two-day early voting exercise, the greatest number since the system was implemented in 2013.

The winner of the election will confront rising problems including deepening inequality and soaring property prices that have stretched Asia's fourth-largest economy.

Voters are also seeking for a leader who can clean up the country's corruption, mend the nation's divisions and polarized politics, and kick-start talks to defuse North Korea's growing nuclear threat.

Initially, 14 candidates registered, but the campaign has narrowed to a two-way race between Lee Jae-myung, the Democratic Party's standard-bearer, and Yoon Suk-yeol, the conservative main opposition People Power Party's candidate.

In May, the victor of the election will take over as Moon Jae-in's successor. Despite failing to reach a promised peace accord with North Korea, the incumbent remains popular.

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