Mon, Nov 26, 2007 - Page 5 News List

S Korean hopefuls sign up for presidential run

RECORD On a public swing to the right after a decade of liberal rule, Lee Myung-bak of the conservative Grand National Party is expected to succeed Roh Moo-hyun

AFP , SEOUL

Lee Myung-bak, South Korea's presidential frontrunner, and other candidates registered with election authorities yesterday among a record number to run for the top job, officials said.

The National Election Commission said nine hopefuls, including main opposition candidate Lee and his pro-government arch-rival Chung Dong-young, signed up at the start of registration.

The office said it expects more candidates, including conservative independent Lee Hoi-chang, to enroll before registration closes today.

"It marks the biggest number in the nation's history of presidential elections," a commission spokesman said, adding the previous record was eight in the 1987 and 1992 presidential elections.

Campaigning starts tomorrow for the Dec. 9 vote.

The winner of the election will replace South Korean President Roh Moo-hyun, whose five-year single term expires in February.

A JoongAng Ilbo newspaper poll published on Friday had Lee Myung-bak on 40.3 percent, Lee Hoi-chang on 19.2 and Chung on 12.7, after surveying 1,000 people by telephone with a 3.1 percent margin of error.

Lee Myung-bak, a former construction executive of the conservative Grand National Party (GNP), is tipped to win the election on a public swing to the right after a decade of liberal rule.

But the former Seoul mayor faces allegations he was involved in a stock manipulation and embezzlement scam by his former business partner. Lee Myung-bak denies any involvement.

"I hope prosecutors will find the truth through fair investigations as quickly as possible. Let me make it clear ... that I was not involved in any illegality and wrongdoing," he said in a statement after registration. "Let me have power transferred to satisfy the public desire."

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