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(2nd LD) Nearly half of voters cast ballots in general elections as of 1 p.m.

All News 13:43 April 15, 2020

(ATTN: RECASTS headline, lead; UPDATES throughout with latest turnout; CHANGES photo)
By Choi Soo-hyang

SEOUL, April 15 (Yonhap) -- Voter turnout for parliamentary elections reached 49.7 percent by around the midpoint of the daylong voting Wednesday, 11.8 percentage points higher than at the same time in the previous elections four years ago, the National Election Commission (NEC) said.

According to the commission, some 21.9 million South Koreans completed casting ballots as of 1 p.m., seven hours after voting began at 14,330 polling stations nationwide in crucial elections that are seen as a referendum on President Moon Jae-in amid the country's fight against the new coronavirus.

The figure includes part of a record high turnout of 26.69 percent in last week's two-day early voting, as well as votes by overseas South Korean nationals and those aboard ships, the NEC said.

"On the back of the high early voting turnout, this year's turnout is unlikely to be lower than the previous general elections' results," an NEC official said. "I hope it surpasses 60 percent."

In 2016, the turnout stood at 58 percent, with 12.19 percent of voters participating in the previous week's early voting.

As the hourly turnout rate was hovering at a similar level compared with the last elections, some watchers say the figure could reach 70 percent.

This year, a total of 44 million people are eligible to vote in the elections.

The voting is to end at 6 p.m.

People under self-quarantine due to the virus will be allowed to cast ballots after the regular voting ends, if they have no symptoms and have expressed a willingness to vote.

Vote counting is expected to begin at around 6:30 p.m.

Voters form a long line to cast their ballots at a polling station in Seoul on April 15, 2020, as South Koreans began voting the same day to elect a new parliament amid the outbreak of the new coronavirus. (Yonhap)

scaaet@yna.co.kr
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