There has been plenty of mudslinging between candidates' camps, but ideology or regional divisions have largely faded from the presidential election campaign with just a month until Koreans go to the polls.
The pattern is entirely new, turning into a two-way race between two left-of-center candidates -- the Minjoo Party's Moon Jae-in and Ahn Cheol-soo of the People's Party -- rather than the usual standoff between a conservative and a progressive with their respective regional strongholds.
Pundits say that this makes it much easier for voters to switch their support based on policies or, as the camps seem to be hoping, the personal probity of candidates after ex-President Park Geun-hye was brought down by a massive corruption scandal.
In the past, swing votes were minimal as the fault lines ran clean through ideologies and the conservative stronghold of the southeastern Gyeongsang region and liberal bastion in the southwestern Jeolla region.
The birthplace of candidates used to be considered a primary factor in voting decisions. But since the two leading candidates, both Gyeongsang natives and both from the progressive camps, regional biases have become largely meaningless.
A Chosun Ilbo/Kantar Public poll last week showed Ahn and Moon basically neck-and-neck in all voting districts.
Park Myung-ho at Dongguk University said, "Loyal voters in both Gyeongsang and Jeolla regions are faced with a dilemma they've never encountered before. Gyeongsang voters are being more or less forced to choose between two candidates they don't like, and voters in the Jeolla region are spoiled for choice."
Moon and Ahn are not very different from previous candidates in the liberal camp. Lee Chung-hee at Hankuk University of Foreign Studies said, "Presidential elections used to hinge on which candidate was able to drum up most support among moderate voters while conservative and progressive voters were firmly set in their preferences. But this time conservative voters are being shifted to the center."
Sources in the conservative camps, badly bruised and divided after Park's ouster, say support tends toward Ahn, a former software tycoon who is perhaps more centrist in his policies.
But Moon still has a chance if conservatives keep rallying behind one of the rightwing candidates who stand no chance of winning. Pundits say Moon has secured the support of traditional liberals but lacks the power to expand his support base. Ahn, by contrast, has shown a lot of flexibility in wooing voters, but this support could be fleeting.
"There's very little chance of Moon losing supporters even if a major flaw is revealed," said political analyst Yoon Tae-gon. "But Ahn could either see the ranks of his supporters swell or dwindle sharply."
Kim Hyung-joon, at Myongji University said, "With Ahn in the lead among centrist voters, the voting choices of conservatives will determine the outcome of elections." If the conservative Liberty Korea Party and Bareun Party "win more than 15 percent of the votes, Moon stands a strong chance of winning, but if not, it'll be Ahn."
The election is being held amid heightened political and economic uncertainties in Korea, but it could also open a new chapter in Korean politics. Kang Won-taek at Seoul National University said, "The upcoming election is a critical one, because the ideological and regional divides that have persisted in Korea since democratization in 1987 have crumbled, leading to the creation of a new order."