South Korea polls heading down to the wire

The two rivals for South Korea’s presidency made a final pitch to voters Tuesday - the eve of an election that looks set to go down to the wire and could produce the country’s first female leader.

The eventual winner of Tuesday’s ballot will face numerous foreign and domestic challenges, including a pugnacious North Korea, a slowing economy and soaring welfare costs in one of the world’s most rapidly-ageing societies.

Ruling conservative party candidate Park Geun-hye is looking to make history as the first female president of a still male-dominated nation, and the first to be related to a former leader. Park, 60, is the daughter of one of modern Korea’s most polarising figures, the late dictator Park Chung-Hee who is both admired for dragging the country out of poverty and reviled for his ruthless suppression of dissent during 18 years of autocratic rule.

He was shot dead by his spy chief in 1979. Park’s mother had been killed five years earlier by a pro-North Korea gunman aiming for her father.

Standing between Park and the presidential Blue House is the liberal Moon Jae-in from the main opposition party, a former human rights lawyer who was once jailed for protesting against the regime of Park’s father. The last permitted opinion polls showed that Moon had eroded the small but clear lead Park enjoyed for much of the campaign, leaving the result too close to call.

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