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United States does not see Moon win in S.Korea significantly changing ties

Moon Jae-in, who is sure to win South Korea's presidential election, has vowed to restore engagement with North Korea and play an active role in diplomatic efforts to curb its nuclear weapons program, ending almost a decade of frozen ties and strategic inertia, as he puts it, under his two conservative predecessors.

The ballot was called to choose a new president after Park Geun-hye was ousted and indicted for corruption, and took place against a backdrop of high tensions with nuclear-armed North Korea.

South Koreans voted Tuesday in a presidential election a conservative candidate declared a "war of regime choices" in stark contrast to the liberal front-runner looking to overturn a decade of right-leaning rule.

Exit polls, jointly released by three local broadcasters right after the voting ended at 8 p.m., indicated Moon coming closer to to becoming the country's 19th president.

Hong said he is satisfied with his efforts to rebuild the party if the exit poll reflects actual results.

"We will accomplish the two tasks given to us, reform and national unity that the people of this country desire".

The exit poll does not include the more than 25% of South Koreans who voted early. He has said he would skip a lavish inauguration ceremony and start work straight away.

He is likely to quickly name a prime minister, who will need parliamentary approval.

Moon was a former presidential Chief of Staff who later ran against, and narrowly lost to, former president Park Geun-hye in 2012.

This won't help Moon with conservatives, many of whom look with shock at his proposals for a softer approach, including possible aid, possible direct talks with dictator Kim Jong Un, and the possible return of massive inter-Korean projects. He advocates a two-track policy of seeking dialogue with the North while maintaining pressure and sanctions to encourage change. Moon faces working with a fractured parliament where his Democratic Party holds 40 percent of the single-chamber, 299-seat assembly, which will likely mean difficulties and deals to pass bills. "So he is my destiny", he wrote in his best-selling memoir, Moon Jae In - The Destiny.

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His victory was bolstered by strong support from younger people, the majority of whom voted for him, according to the exit polls. Park sympathizers later staged their own rallies.

Though it was never his intention to enter politics, he was roped in as a key adviser to Mr Roh, who won the 2003 presidential election.

He could encourage the reopening of the joint industrial park at Kaesong, which opened in 2004 in North Korea to employ North Koreans in South Korean firms, but which closed a year ago in response to North Korea's nuclear and missile tests.

During the campaign, Moon promised to address the systemic problems that led to Park's impeachment, creating expectations that will define his administration.

During the Sunshine Policy, Seoul actively engaged Pyongyang, which led to closer relations on both sides of the border and saw two South Korean Presidents visit the North Korean capital.

If Moon's win is confirmed, he is expected to overhaul Seoul's policy on North Korea, looking to open talks with Pyongyang and challenge the deployment of a controversial United States missile defense system.

The official said it was premature to speculate on the possibility that Moon's government would ask for the removal of THAAD and noted that campaign positions were often moderated once could be moderated once a new administration conducts a "full appraisal of their security situation".

The U.S.is closely watching South Korea's presidential election and the changes in policy that it could bring.

John Nilsson-Wright, senior lecturer in worldwide relations at Cambridge University, told VICE News that Moon's more moderate approach could lead to increased tensions between Seoul and Washington, as the US - accustomed to a compliant partner in South Korea - looks to put pressure on the North over its weapons programs.

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