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Moon Jae-in, a former human rights lawyer and political veteran, is set to become South Korea’s new leader according to exit polls, in a historic election that paves the way for the country to return to stability after months of turmoil.

His likely election fills a leadership vacuum created following the impeachment of president Park Geun-hye over corruption allegations in March. It has also ends nine years of conservative rule by Ms Park and her predecessor Lee Myung-bak.

Early indications suggest Mr Moon garnered more than 41 per cent the vote, defeating his two main rivals — Hong Joon-pyo, a conservative from Ms Park’s party and former provincial governor, and Ahn Cheol-soo, a centrist with the People’s party and former software mogul.

The election is expected to have record turnout after Ms Park’s impeachment fuelled an apparent surge in civic spirit.

Copyright The Financial Times Limited 2017. All rights reserved.

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