S.Korea opposition candidate closes poll gap, pledges jobs

* Left winger Moon closes gap in South Korean presidential

race

* Moon pledges jobs package

* North Korean rocket launch not a major factor

SEOUL, Dec 13 (Reuters) - Running a close second in opinion

polls, South Korean presidential candidate Moon Jae-in announced

on Thursday plans for a 20 trillion won ($18.60 billion) jobs

package in a bid to close the gap six days before the election.

South Korea bans the publication of opinion polls from

Thursday and Moon, the left-wing opposition challenger to

conservative Park Geun-hye, was 1.5-3.5 percentage points

behind, compared with a gap of up to 7.5 points a week ago.

Moon's gains came after independent candidate Ahn Cheol-soo

dropped out of the running and threw his support behind Moon's

bid to beat Park, the daughter of South Korea's former dictator

Park Chung-hee, in the Dec. 19 vote.

"Growth, welfare, economic democracy all start from jobs and

are for the sake of jobs," Moon told reporters after announcing

his plan which included a promise to raise the minimum wage and

halve the number of temporary workers in the private sector.

Pollster Realmeter showed Park was polling 48 percent while

Moon was on 47.5 percent, putting the gap well within the margin

of error.

"The fact that there is no major third candidate in this

election has made the race even more competitive," said Lee Taek

Soo, head of Realmeter.

Moon's jobs package would come on top of the government's

342.5 trillion won spending plan for next year that has been

submitted to parliament.

Park, in contrast, has not called for any additional

spending.

The economy has been the main issue in the election campaign

and a surprise rocket launch on Wednesday by rival North Korea

appeared to have had little impact on voters.

A poll published by broadcaster SBS showed that just 4.2

percent of respondents said North Korea-related issues linked to

the launch could influence their vote.

A separate poll by the Asan Institute think-tank showed that

the launch of the rocket, which critics say is aimed at

developing a long-range missile that could carry a nuclear

weapon, had triggered a small rise in support for Park.

The Asan poll showed that 44.8 percent of respondents cited

Park as most capable of dealing with the North while 40.6

favoured Moon.

($1 = 1,075.0000 Korean won)

(Reporting By Se Young Lee and Narae Kim; Editing by Robert

Birsel)

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