S. Korea Presidential Vote Seen as Too Close to Call

This combination of the two photos, taken Dec. 18, 2012, left, and Dec. 9, 2012, right, shows South Korean presidential election candidates, Moon Jae-in of the Democratic United Party and Park Geun-hye of Saenuri Party.
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Moon and Park also agree on the need to fight widespread government corruption, strengthen social welfare, help small companies, close growing gaps between rich and poor, ease heavy household debt and rein in big corporations that have grown so powerful they threaten to eclipse national laws. They differ mainly in how far they want to go.

Moon wants to drastically expand welfare, while Park seeks more cautious improvement in the system, out of concern that expanding too much could hurt the economy, according to Chung Jin-young, a political scientist at Kyung Hee University in South Korea.

Park is aiming to make history as the first female leader in South Korea — and modern Northeast Asia. But she also works under the shadow of her father, Park Chung-hee, who ruled South Korea as dictator for 18 years until his intelligence chief killed him during a drinking party in 1979.

Park's father is both an asset and a soft spot. Many older South Koreans revere his strict economic policies and tough line against North Korea. But he's also loathed for his odious treatment of opponents, including claims of torture and snap executions.

Moon was a young opponent of Park Chung-hee who spent time in jail for challenging his government. He was a human rights lawyer before going to work for Roh, whom Lee replaced in 2008.

Moon's parents lived in the North Korean port city of Hungnam before fleeing to South Korea aboard a U.S. military ship in daring evacuation operations in December 1950, six months after the Korean War broke out.

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AP writers Foster Klug and Youkyung Lee contributed to this story.

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