The winner of the election will face mounting challenges including deepening inequality and surging housing prices that have strained Asia’s fourth-largest economy.
A total of 14 candidates initially registered, but it has shaped up as a tight two-way race between Lee Jae-myung, the standard-bearer of the ruling Democratic Party, and Yoon Suk-yeol, from the conservative main opposition People Power Party.
They are vying to succeed incumbent President Moon Jae-in, who is constitutionally barred from seeking reelection. The winner’s single, five-year term is set to start on May 10.
Polls showed a slight edge for Yoon, who secured a surprise, last-minute boost last week when Ahn Cheol-soo of the People Party, a fellow conservative running a distant third, dropped out and threw his support behind Yoon.
A survey by Embrain Public estimated the merger could give Yoon 47.4% to Lee’s 41.5%, while an Ipsos poll tipped the margin with Ahn at a slightly wider 48.9% to 41.9% for Yoon.