South Korea votes in first female president - South Korea election: Park Geun-hye defeats Moon Jae-i11:09 pm - 12/19/2012
Both candidates have pledged more welfare spending and dialogue with Pyongyang
South Korea's electoral commission says former dictator's daughter Park Geun-hye has won the country's presidential election.
Votes are still being counted but liberal candidate Moon Jae-in has conceded victory with 84% of votes counted.
Turnout was high in a poll dominated by economic and social welfare issues.
The new president will replace Lee Myung-bak, who is stepping down as the law requires after his five-year term.
Combined figures from the networks released after polls closed gave Ms Park 50.1% of the vote over Mr Moon's 48.9%.From the moment polls opened at 06:00 on Wednesday (21:00 GMT on Tuesday), millions of South Koreans queued to cast their ballots despite freezing temperatures.
- Park Geun-hye, daughter of a former military strongman and leader of the ruling Saenuri Party
- Moon Jae-in, a close associate of late President Roh Moo-hyun and now leader of the opposition Democratic United Party
The exit poll conducted by the three broadcasters KBS, MBC and SBS had a 0.8% margin of error either way - meaning official results could be different.
Broadcaster JTBC also predicted the slimmest of wins for Ms Park, giving her 49.6% to Mr Moon's 49.4%.
But a poll conducted by YTN television network put Mr Moon ahead, giving him between 49.7-53.3% of the vote to Ms Park's 46.1- 49.9%.
Ms Park's supporters cheered as poll figures emerged, but neither camp has claimed or conceded victory.
Analysts expected that a strong turnout would favour Mr Moon. By 16:00 local time (07:00 GMT), with two hours of polling to go, turnout had already passed the 2007 election final figure of 63%.
Ms Park, the daughter of former military leader Park Chung-hee, is looking to make history as South Korea's first female president.
Both bolstered and dogged by the legacy of her father, who built South Korea's economy while crushing dissent, she apologised in September for human rights abuses under his administration.
Mr Moon of the Democratic United Party is a former human rights lawyer who served under former President Roh Moo-hyun. He was briefly jailed by Ms Park's father in the 1970s.
Both candidates have put forward broadly similar policies, promising to boost social welfare spending, close the gap between the rich and poor and rein in the family-run giant conglomerates known as chaebol.
On the issue of North Korea, which did not feature heavily in the campaign despite its recent rocket launch, both candidates have promised more engagement with Pyongyang - though, in Ms Park's case, more cautiously than her rival.
(source: BBC News)
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