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South Koreans begin early voting to replace ousted Park

Associated Press logo Associated Press 4/05/2017
A South Korean soldier exits a polling booth to cast his early vote for the May 9 presidential election at a local polling station in Seoul, South Korea, Thursday, May 4, 2017. South Korea's presidential election is scheduled for May 9, 2017. (AP Photo/Lee Jin-man) © The Associated Press A South Korean soldier exits a polling booth to cast his early vote for the May 9 presidential election at a local polling station in Seoul, South Korea, Thursday, May 4, 2017. South Korea's presidential election is scheduled for May 9, 2017. (AP Photo/Lee Jin-man)

SEOUL, South Korea — South Koreans began early voting Thursday in the election to replace ousted President Park Geun-hye.

Early voters can cast ballots Thursday and Friday at about 3,510 polling stations across the country before the election next Tuesday, the National Election Commission said in a statement.

It's South Korea's first presidential election with early voting after introducing it for parliamentary and mayoral elections in recent years, the statement said.

Pre-election surveys show liberal candidate Moon Jae-in comfortably leading his two main rivals — a centrist and a conservative.

The winner will be sworn in as the new president immediately, forgoing the usual two-month transition. Park's impeachment and removal from office changed South Korea's election schedule, so the new president will serve one full five-year term.

Park is currently jailed at a detention center near Seoul awaiting her trial on allegations that she extorted money from businesses, took kickbacks from some of those companies and committed other wrongdoing, all in collaboration with a longtime confidante. The trial is to formally start later this month.

A commission-run website showed about 4 million people had voted by midafternoon. South Korea has 42,479,710 eligible voters, according to the election commission.

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