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South Korea clicks for votes

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The race for the presidency is too close to call, analysts say
The race for the presidency is too close to call, analysts say

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Political tension with North Korea, rising anti-American sentiment and economic recovery are key issues as South Koreans head to the polls. CNN's Sohn Jie-Ae reports.
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SEOUL, South Korea -- South Korea's 35 million voters hit the polls to elect a successor to President Kim Dae-Jung. And for many of those voters, the trip to the ballot box started with a click of the mouse.

That is because the Web has loomed large in this year's presidential race, with campaigners pushing online video and animation clips to court a critical audience.

"Television plays a very crucial role in attracting voters, instead of mass rallies. That's one difference in terms of campaigning," Professor Kang Won-Taek of South Korea's Soongsil University told Reuters news agency.

"The other one could be related to the use of Internet. Korea has a high level of Internet users."

In fact, the country is wired up for some of the fastest net surfing in the world, supporting nearly 10 million broadband users.

And with South Koreans spending more time in front of the PC than the TV, there's little wonder why the campaign has hit cyberspace.

"Our biggest objective was to develop a campaign method of listening to Netizens through the Internet, which has been very meaningful," Chun Ho-Sun of the ruling Millennium Democratic Party told Reuters.

Wired masses

Chun heads the party's online campaign. With a pack of 30 staff, he's out to reach the wired masses.

"Recently, we have more than 400,000 daily visitors. That means if we exclude the number of visitors who come to the homepage more than twice a day, the number of new visitors is about 200,000," he said.

Clicking for votes has become the way to tap a critical audience -- young voters. Two-thirds of the eligible voters in South Korea are under the age of 50.

"Young people like to lead comfortable lives. So they would rather use the Internet at home than attend rallies," a young voter told Reuters.

"Without the Internet, some voters have difficulties to have a direct access to candidates," another voter said.

"In that sense, the Internet is a very important tool to check and share information on candidates or parties."

--CNN's Kristie LuStout and Reuters contributed to this report



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