Scent of Victory Surrounds the 'Bulldozer' in Korean Election

SEOUL, South Korea -- South Korean voters are preparing to head to the polls, ready to end 10 years of rule by liberal presidents by selecting a former businessman who promises to run the world's 13th-largest economy like a CEO.

If elected on Wednsday, conservative candidate Lee Myung-bak will be the first businessman leader since democratic elections began in 1987. Since then, voters have sent a former general, two dissidents who fought decades of dictatorship, and a human rights lawyer to the presidential Blue House.

But Lee has been hounded by charges of corruption. Over the weekend, rivals showed a video touted as new evidence linking him to a securities firm suspected of fraud.

Prosecutors had cleared him of the allegations earlier this month but parliament voted on Monday to set up a special counsel to look into the affair again.

Still, one analyst joked that conservatives could put up a dog and still win because of the animosity toward left-leaning government of outgoing President Roh Moo-hyun, who is seen as having botched the economy and allowed house prices to soar out of reach.

Lee, who at 36 became the CEO of Hyundai's construction arm, is a businessman with star power. He was popular mayor of Seoul, and his life story was part of a hit television drama about the country's economic heroes.

Analysts say the massive poll lead of the man nicknamed "the bulldozer" for his can-do style is less a reflection of any passionate support and more one of his image as someone with the experience and pragmatism to revitalize the economy.

The candidates have tried to spice up rallies with bouncy dance routines and singalongs -- and in Lee's case having volunteers spray a specially developed perfume called "Great Korea" at his campaign stops.