S.Korea mogul quits presidential bid, backs rival to challenge Park

SEOUL Fri Nov 23, 2012 7:35pm IST

Independent presidential candidate Ahn Cheol-soo speaks during a news conference at the Seoul Foreign Correspondents' Club in Seoul November 19, 2012. REUTERS/Kim Hong-Ji

Independent presidential candidate Ahn Cheol-soo speaks during a news conference at the Seoul Foreign Correspondents' Club in Seoul November 19, 2012.

Credit: Reuters/Kim Hong-Ji

Related Topics

SEOUL (Reuters) - South Korean software mogul Ahn Cheol-soo gave up on Friday his bid to become president and endorsed another opposition candidate, setting the stage for a close race with conservative favorite Park Geun-hye to lead Asia's fourth largest economy.

Opinion polls had shown that Park, daughter of the country's assassinated leader Park Chung-hee, would have easily the December 19 presidential election if the opposition had fielded two candidates and split the opposition vote.

But Ahn's decision to step aside leaves Moon Jae-in, a former human rights lawyer and the candidate of the left-of-centre main opposition Democratic United Party, as Park's main challenger.

"Moon Jae-in is the single candidate ... send Moon Jae-in your support," Ahn, who was running as an independent with a strong backing of urban and young professional voters, told a news conference.

South Korea's economy and relations with North Korea are two of the main issues in the election to replace President Lee Myung-bak, who is serving a five-year term ending in February and can not run again.

Jae-in has pledged to resume unconditional aid to North Korea and to tighten regulation on big business.

Ahn and Moon had been trying to agree on a single candidate and avoid splitting the anti-Park vote but had failed during more than two weeks of bitter discussions to merge their campaigns.

Experts said Ahn's decision to step aside would turn what had looked like an easy win for Park, who is trying to become the country's first woman leader, into a very close race.

"This will have a powerful impact ahead and bring more votes to Moon in the two-way race," said Ka Sang-joon, a political science professor at Dankook University in Seoul.

Moon, 59, has been under intense pressure from his party, which has 127 of the 300 seats in parliament and support from across the country, not to yield to Ahn.

Policy proposals from the two main candidates have been remarkably similar considering the differences in their political backgrounds and support bases.

They are both courting a large block of voters who feel their voice has not been heard under the pro-business government of incumbent Lee.

(Editing by Robert Birsel)

FILED UNDER:
Comments (0)
This discussion is now closed. We welcome comments on our articles for a limited period after their publication.

  • Most Popular
  • Most Shared

Islamic State Threat

Reuters Showcase

Day of Mourning

Day of Mourning

Malaysia mourns as bodies of MH17 victims finally come home.  Full Article 

Iraq's Air Force

Iraq's Air Force

Amid U.S. air strikes, Iraq struggles to build own air force.  Full Article 

History In Pictures

History In Pictures

First pictures of Taj Mahal to ‘Hairy family of Burma’: subcontinent photos from 1850-1910.  Full Article 

Tough Policies

Tough Policies

Australia defends detention of child asylum seekers.  Full Article 

Tensions Ease

Tensions Ease

National Guard begins pullout from riot-weary Ferguson, Missouri.  Full Article 

Nervous  Calm

Nervous Calm

Amid outward calm, climate of fear cements Thai military rule.  Full Article 

Containing Ebola

Containing Ebola

Liberia quarantines remote villages at the epicenter of the virus.  Slideshow 

Reuters India Mobile

Reuters India Mobile

Get the latest news on the go. Visit Reuters India on your mobile device.  Full Coverage