A South Korean Buddhist monk casts his preliminary vote for the May 9 presidential election in Seoul, South Korea, at a local polling station in Seoul, South Korea, Thursday, May 4, 2017. (AP)
SEOUL, South Korea, May 4: South Koreans began early voting Thursday in the election to replace ousted President Park Geun-hye.
Early voters can cast ballots Thursday and Friday at about 3,510 polling stations across the country before the election next Tuesday, the National Election Commission said in a statement.
It's South Korea's first presidential election with early voting after introducing it for parliamentary and mayoral elections in recent years, the statement said.
Pre-election surveys show liberal candidate Moon Jae-in comfortably leading his two main rivals — a centrist and a conservative.
The winner will be sworn in as the new president immediately, forgoing the usual two-month transition. Park's impeachment and removal from office changed South Korea's election schedule, so the new president will serve one full five-year term.
Park is currently jailed at a detention center near Seoul awaiting her trial on allegations that she extorted money from businesses, took kickbacks from some of those companies and committed other wrongdoing, all in collaboration with a longtime confidante. The trial is to formally start later this month.
A commission-run website showed about 4 million people had voted by midafternoon. South Korea has 42,479,710 eligible voters, according to the election commission.