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(LEAD) Moon claims election victory, vows to become proud president

2017/05/10 00:28

(ATTN: UPDATES with additional information from 3rd para)

By Byun Duk-kun

SEOUL, May 10 (Yonhap) -- Liberal presidential candidate Moon Jae-in declared his victory in South Korea's presidential election held Tuesday, saying he will become a president who will make his country and people proud.

"I will build a new nation. I will make a great Korea, A proud Korea. And I will be the proud president of such a proud nation," he told his supporters in Seoul's Gwanghwamun area.

Over 32.8 million, or 77.2 percent, of 42.4 million eligible voters cast ballots in the rare presidential by-election held Tuesday.

Moon had 39.5 percent of 12.7 million votes counted so far, but an exit poll had shown him as a clear and sure winner of the election, with over 41 percent of all votes cast.

The Democratic Party candidate was followed by Hong Joon-pyo of the conservative Liberty Korea Party with 26.5 percent of the votes counted so far. The exit poll had him in second with 23.3 percent of the votes.

The National Election Commission earlier said the vote counting could take more than 10 hours.

However, Hong and other minor candidates have already accepted their defeat.

"If the outcome of the exit poll is true, I will be happy to have rebuilt the party that had collapsed," Hong said earlier.

Hong's former ruling party, previously called the Saenuri Party, was split in two following the defection of 33 lawmakers who backed the parliamentary impeachment of then-President Park Geun-hye over a corruption scandal. They later created the Bareun Party in January.

The former conservative president was ousted on March 10 by a Constitutional Court ruling that upheld the parliamentary impeachment of her over a series of corruption allegations that have also led to her arrest and indictment.

Tuesday's election had been viewed to be tilted in favor of liberal candidates as it followed the massive corruption scandal involving the former conservative leader.

Ahn Cheol-soo of the center-left People's Party was expected to finish third with 21.8 percent of the votes, according to the exit poll conducted by the three major broadcasters here -- MBC, KBS and SBS.

Sim Sang-jeung of the progressive Justice Party was also said to have won 5.9 percent of votes, trailing Yoo Seong-min of the splinter conservative Bareun Party with 7.1 percent.