SEOUL – As some South Korean voters walked out of polling stations on an unusually warm election day, others stayed at the polling booths with hand.
“The previous elections were clearly skewed towards one person, but now they are different,” said one voter, Kim Do Hyung, 29, who said he was preparing to apply for jobs in the IT sector. “There are a lot of people around me who are having a hard time making a decision.”
In interviews, many voters expressed uncertainty about their choice because the scandals and negative campaigning that plagued so much of the presidential race didn’t make any of the main contestants, Lee Jae Myung and Yoon Seok Yeol, desirable. South Korean media referred to the race as “mud fightand elect”the unloved. “
But voter turnout late on Wednesday afternoon was higher than it was around the same time in the last presidential election, likely motivated in part by the expectation that this will be a tight race.
Opinion polls last week showed very little margin between the major candidates. By comparison, President Moon Jae-in won nearly 5.6 million more votes than his runner-up in 2017 — the largest margin of victory since the country began holding democratic elections in the late 1980s.
“This election looks a lot more complicated than it did five years ago,” said Ji Hye Yoon, 65, who said she made a last-minute decision in the polling room. “My mind is always changing. I didn’t know who would be a good choice.”
Ahn Da Young, 29, said she only came to a decision the day before her vote early Saturday, when she picked Sim Sang Joong, a third-party candidate and one of the few women hopefuls.
“I don’t think she would be elected,” said Mrs. Ann, “but I simply did not want to choose someone I did not like very much.” “She was the candidate I wanted to choose in terms of their political views.”
Some voters’ disappointment may stem from concern about the state of the country, which is currently dealing with an increase in Omicron. On Wednesday, daily new cases topped 342,000, and 1.2 million people were treated for Covid-19, nearly a quarter of the total cases the country has registered since the start of the pandemic.
Voters also expressed their disappointment with the current government, citing hardships like those in the country Wild housing prices. While Mr Moon enjoyed a historically high approval rating earlier in his tenure, it fell to 45 percent last week, according to the Gallup Korea. Many voters said this election would be a verdict on his administration.
“The current administration didn’t score a zero in my book,” said Lee Jae Don, 81, a retiree. “You didn’t do one thing right.”
Even Park Seo-yeol, 37, who voted for Mr. Lee, Mr. Moon’s party candidate, said she chose him because she hoped he would enact most of the reform.
“I think he’s the candidate who will change something,” said Ms. Park, the translator in Seoul. “Reform is overdue.”
The election also coincided with growing bitterness about South Korea’s well-documented income gap and gender inequality.
said Stella Lee, 36, who works for an architecture firm in Seoul.
“The seeds of mistrust are everywhere,” she added. “I don’t think they’re going away any time soon.”
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