The voting began about an hour ago. A few points to watch as the polls close and counting begins:

  • Turnout.   Higher turnout is better for Moon Jae-in; lower turnout is better for Park Geun-hye. Park is in the clear if the turnout is less than 70%; Moon is in the clear if the turnout is more than 73%. The actual turnout is expected to be somewhere in the middle.
  • Busan.   If there is any place that can be analogized to a “swing state” in Korea, it is the second largest city of Korea that traditionally favored the NFP. Without a healthy share of votes from Busan, Moon Jae-in cannot win. Moon’s camp hopes to win 35-40% of the votes in Busan.
  • Anyang.  Similarly, if there is any place that can be analogized to a “bellwether state” in Korea, it is Gyeonggi-do Anyang. In all major elections of the last decade, Anyang’s votes most closely matched the national final results.
  • Time to call.   If the election is particularly close, it will take quite some time to call it. The 2002 presidential election was called around 10 p.m.; 2007 election, around 9 p.m. This election may not be called until 11 p.m.

Check back here for updates.

– 9:15 a.m. KST – As of 9 a.m., the turnout is 11.6%, nearly a full percentage higher than the 2002 election (in which the final turnout was 70.8%), and approaching the same-time numbers for the 1997 election (in which the final turnout was 80.7%.)

-10:25 a.m. KST – In the Korean Twitterverse (which has a clearly liberal bent,) the big news is a story of a young man who was near Lee Myeong-bak at the polling station, and refused to shake the president’s hand. Reportedly, Lee scolded that the young fella should have a more positive attitude.

-11:38 a.m. KST – Holy crap. As of 11 a.m., the turnout is 26.4%.  This number is now higher than that for the 1997 election.

-1:05 p.m. KST- Ok, we might not get to 80% turnout after all. As of 1 p.m., the turnout is 45.3%, about 2% lower than the 1997 election at 1 p.m. But we are heading toward high-70% territory here. I should stop now before I jinx things.

-3:05 p.m. KST-  59.2% so far. Not quite the 61.9% of 1997, but significantly higher than 54.3% of 2002. Looks like we will end up at between 76 to 78%. If that ends up happening, my only prediction for this election might turn out to be wrong.

This will be the last update for a few hours, as it is past 1 a.m. EST. Will get back on this horse in about 6 hours or so.

-9:36 p.m. KST-  The final turnout was 75.8%, and the initial exit polls predicted different results. But with 45.6% of the votes counted, things are looking good for Park Geun-hye right now, contrary to expectations. Park is leading by 4.7%, and KBS called the election already. Most progressive pundits are conceding defeat. I am ready to give this another hour.

-10:16 p.m. KST-  Interesting — what was once a 5% PGH lead is now down to 3.8% lead, with more than 70% of Seoul’s votes (which favor MJI) left to be counted. Not sure if that will be enough to change the result, but bears watching for another hour or so.

How did a 75.8% turnout translate to PGH’s likely victory (at least at this point)? Daegu and Gyeongsangbuk-do hold the key. The region from which PGH hails turned out in massive numbers, and gave more than 80% of its votes to PGH.

-11:41 p.m. KST-  Well, that does it — Park Geun-hye is Korea’s new president. My congratulations to her. Her lead went down to 3.6% and stabilized. Moon Jae-in is now on the move to his headquarters to give what is expected to be his concession speech. Park Geun-hye likewise is moving to Gwanghwamun area to give her victory speech. The final tally looks like it will be around 51.5% to 48%.

If I have any strength left over, I will provide a postmortem on how the election unfolded, and where the turning points were.