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S Korean presidential election begins
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The presidential elections kicked off in South Korea nationwide at 6 a.m. Wednesday (2100 GMT Tuesday).


A total of 13,178 polling stations nationwide will be opened to 37.65 million eligible voters from 6 a.m. (2100 GMT Tuesday) to 6 p.m. (0900 GMT Wednesday) Wednesday, according to the National Election Commission (NEC).



Pedestrians walk past as supporters of Lee Hoi-chang, former chairman of South Korea's main opposition Grand National Party and now an independent presidential candidate, hold Lee's portraits in Seoul December 18, 2007.


More than 80,000 policemen are deployed at the polling stations on Wednesday throughout the country, the NEC said.


The ballot counting will start at around 7 p.m. (1000 GMT) at 249 ballot counting stations throughout the country and will likely finish by midnight except for those cast in remote areas.


It expects the preliminary result to be known between 9 p.m. (1200 GMT) and 10 p.m. (1300 GMT).


Among a total of 10 presidential candidates, Lee Myung-bak of the Grand National Party (GNP), Chung Dong-young of the United New Democratic Party (UNDP) and the independent Lee Hoi-chang are regarded as the most hopeful candidates for the next president.


The winner of Wednesday's elections will take office as president from Feb. 25, 2008.



Opposition Grand National Party (GNP) presidential candidate Lee Myung-Bak gestures to supporters.



Chung Dong-young, the candidate of the United New Democratic Party for the upcoming December 19 South Korea presidential election, greets supporters during a rally in Seoul December 18, 2007.


(Xinhua News Agency December 19, 2007)

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