Defection could swing Korean poll

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A PRO-North Korea candidate from a far-left party quit South Korea’s presidential race yesterday and threw her weight behind the main opposition candidate in a move that could decide the outcome of an election on Wednesday that appears too close to call.

Lee Jung-hee, who was polling up to 1.6 per cent in some surveys, stood aside ahead of the final presidential debate between conservative Park Geun-hye and Moon Jae-in. Ms Park leads Mr Moon by 0.5-2.0 percentage points in the most recent polls.

Ms Lee has acted as a spoiler in the debates so far, making strident attacks on Ms Park, the daughter of South Korean dictator Park Chung-hee.

Ms Lee told a news conference that she had decided to quit “to meet the expectations of the whole nation” in a bid to change the presidency, currently held by conservative Lee Myung-bak whose single mandatory five-year term is coming to an end.

She attacked Ms Park again yesterday saying that the 60-year-old was part of an “old and corrupt dictatorship”.

South Korea votes under the shadow of North Korea’s recent successful rocket launch, although economic and welfare issues are the main concerns in the election.

In a poll by South Korean broadcaster SBS, the North was the top concern for just 4.7 per cent of voters.