South Koreans have gone to the polls in parliamentary elections that, until now, have seen the ruling conservatives running neck and neck with their main rivals.
South Koreans cast their ballots in parliamentary elections on Wednesday, amid rising regional tensions over a planned rocket launch by North Korea, and growing domestic concern about sleaze and the power of big business.
Opinion polls have shown the conservatives and their left-wing opposition in a dead heat in the run-up to the election, which is seen as an indicator for the more important presidential election in December.
Leading the pro-business incumbent Saenuri party is Park Geun-hye, who is the daughter of former South Korean dictator Park Chung-hee. The party is also known as the New Frontier Party (NFP), with Park Geun-hye dubbedthe “Queen of Elections” in light of a string of previous polling successes.
Challenging powerful business
In opposition to the NFP is a left-wing coalition - the Democratic United Party (DUP) - that has said it is challenging the power of large conglomerates that dominate the country's economy.
The conservatives currently hold 162 out of 299 seats, but predictions for the election would result in each of the big parties winning between 130 and 140.
The DUP has identified the ruling party as favoring the rich. It has also promised to revise a free trade agreement with the United States, claiming this would create jobs.
However, the DUP has seen support fade in the past over its handling of revelations and sexist and lewd comments made by one of its members.
Despite international tensions over relations with North Korea - with Pyongyang to conduct a contentious rocket test - the issue has not been a major theme, with South Koreans accustomed to constant tensions with the North.
rc/slk (dpa, Reuters)