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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

In Crisis, South Korea Voters Opt for Stability

SEOUL -- South Korea's ruling New Korea Party scored a stunning win in general elections Thursday, television projected, as voters scared by Pyongyang sabre-rattling opted for stability over change.


Officials from President Kim Young-sam's camp whooped with joy as the projections were flashed on giant television screens at party headquarters.


The projections, issued seconds after voting closed, showed the New Korea Party raising its share of seats to 175 from 150 -- a wafer-thin majority -- in the 299-seat parliament. Most pundits had predicted it would lose power.


The main opposition National Congress for New Politics was projected to have won 72 seats, up from 55, but it had expected to do better and that result would be a bitter disappointment.


National Congress leader Kim Dae-jung failed in his bid for a seat in parliament, the projections showed. It would be a humiliation for the veteran dissident leader that could crush his hopes of running for the presidency next year, political analysts said.


Party officials said three North Korean troop incursions into the buffer zone separating the two Koreas since last Friday may have been behind the upset victory.


"North Korea has definitely affected the psychology of the voters," said a National Congress leader, Kim Dae-sung.


North Korean fighter jets can reach Seoul in minutes. City residents had grown increasingly nervous as Pyongyang intensified its hostile rhetoric.


The third largest party, the United Liberal Democrats, was projected to increase its seats by just one to 33. The Democratic Party was expected to drop to 11 from 37. The turnout was 63 percent, the lowest in modern times.


?Russia,while trying to ease tensions between North and South Korea, has no reason to abandon cooperation with Pyongyang, a Foreign Ministry spokesman said Thursday. "We base our military and technical cooperation on two principles -- it should not hamper the regional balance of forces and it should not involve weapons that can be used for aggression," spokesman Mikhail Demurin told a news briefing.


Deputy Foreign Minister Alexander Panov is now in Pyongyang meeting with a joint economic cooperation committee. He planned to hold talks with his North Korean counterpart.


Russian Prime Minister Viktor Chernomrdin, quoted by Itar-Tass, told North Korean Prime Minister Kang Song-san that Russia regretted the decline in economic ties with Pyongyang and sought their restoration.