On eve of South Korea vote, Park sounds father's battle cry

Tue Dec 18, 2012 6:09am EST
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By Somang Yang

SEOUL (Reuters) - With just a day to go before a tight presidential vote in South Korea, front-running conservative candidate Park Geun-hye evoked her dictator father's economic call to arms in a bid to rally her party faithful.

She pledged in a news conference to recreate Park Chung-hee's "Let's Live well" miracle of rapid economic gains for a country that she said was laboring under heavy household debt, the high cost of raising children and poverty among old people.

Data shows that South Korean households are more indebted than those in the United States were just before the 2008 credit crisis.

The elder Park's 18-year rule from 1961 to 1979 helped transform South Korea's from a war-torn backwater into an export powerhouse. In a bid to get people to work towards prosperity, a song based on the "Let's Live Well" catch phrase blared out from loudspeakers across the country under his rule.

Park's daughter had earlier sought to distance herself from the divisive legacy of her father's rule that also saw political repression in the name of securing the country.

The gap between the conservative Park and her left-wing challenger, Moon Jae-in, could be as little as 0.5 percentage points, according to some polls.

"It comes down to the demographics of the voter turnout," said Hong Hyung-sik of pollster Hangil Research.

Polls show that older voters are more likely to pick Park and more likely to vote, while Moon is reliant on more fickle younger voters.   Continued...

South Korea's presidential candidate Park Geun-hye of conservative and right wing ruling Saenuri Party attends an election campaign rally in Daejeon, south of Seoul, December 18, 2012. REUTERS/Kim Hong-Ji