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Early voting turnout reaches record high in South Korea

South Koreans turned up to vote in record numbers on Friday, according to the country's National Election Commission. Photo by Jeon Heon-kyun/EPA-EFE
South Koreans turned up to vote in record numbers on Friday, according to the country's National Election Commission. Photo by Jeon Heon-kyun/EPA-EFE

April 10 (UPI) -- Record numbers of voters are showing up at the polls in South Korea ahead of parliamentary elections on April 15, as the coronavirus pandemic stabilizes in the country.

Eligible voters could be showing up at voting booths to avoid bigger crowds that may begin to emerge next week. On Friday, 12.14 percent of all eligible voters in the country turned up to vote, Newsis reported Friday.

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The voters, 5.34 million people in total, surpass the highest early voting rates in 2016, when 58 percent of all voters took part in the general elections.

South Korea began to offer an early voting option in 2014. Friday's numbers are an all-time high, the report says.

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South Korea has been reporting far fewer cases this week than in the past, but the public has continued to take precautionary measures, including wearing masks and practicing social distancing.

Cho Jin-man, a professor of political science at Duksung Women's University, told Newsis people who continue to work from home may be more able to take advantage of early voting options. Safety may also be a priority, Cho said.

Lee Jong-hoon, a research professor at Myongji University, said South Koreans' perception of democratic participation has changed dramatically since the "Candlelight Revolution" of 2016, when crowds of people gathered to protest former President Park Geun-hye. Park was impeached in connection to corruption scandals in 2017.

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Park's faction of conservatives, the main opposition in the race, has focused on campaigning in the Seoul area, local television network SBS reported Friday.

The United Future Party's campaign chief Lee Jin-bok suggested Friday some politicians in the ruling Democratic Party may have been members of online chat rooms where sexual exploitation videos were uploaded. The so-called "Nth room case" sent shockwaves after investigators found tens of thousands of paid members had watched sexually violent videos that exploited women and sometimes children.

Lee did not say he had details regarding his allegations.

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The ruling party is expected to receive a boost at the polls following President Moon Jae-in's response to the coronavirus.

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