Park Leads Moon in Poll as S. Korea Presidential Campaign Begins

Park Geun Hye, the South Korean ruling party’s presidential nominee, held a lead in polls over opposition challenger Moon Jae In as they prepared to launch a barrage of television ads ahead of next month’s election.

Park, of the New Frontier Party, has 43.5 percent support, compared with 39.9 percent for Moon, according to a poll published today in the Chosun Ilbo newspaper. The survey was taken after independent candidate Ahn Cheol Soo withdrew from the race Nov. 23 and endorsed Moon.

At stake in the Dec. 19 contest is stewardship of Asia’s fourth-biggest economy, with the winner having to tackle rising household debt and slowing growth after replacing Lee Myung Bak for a five-year term. Park, seeking to become the nation’s first female leader, said she’ll quit politics unless she wins.

“If I fail to win the people’s trust in this presidential election, I’ll wrap up my journey as a politician,” Park, 60, said in a televised speech yesterday. “Please allow me the last opportunity to serve the public.”

Both candidates registered with the National Election Commission ahead of the start of the official campaigning period tomorrow.

Moon, 59, of the main opposition Democratic United Party, vowed to defeat Park while expressing gratitude to Ahn.

“I’ll take the grave responsibility to reform South Korea’s politics,” said Moon, a former human-rights lawyer and chief of staff to late President Roh Moo Hyun.

Opposition Bolstered

Ahn’s decision to drop out will pose a threat to Park in the vote, said Sonn Ho Chul, a professor of political science at Seoul-based Sogang University. The move will bolster the opposition’s chances by ending weeks of bickering over who would be the unified candidate against Park, Sonn said.

Shares of Ahnlab Inc. (053800), the antivirus software maker founded by Ahn, fell as much as the daily limit of 15 percent on the Korea Exchange today. The stock had surged to a record on Jan. 4 on speculation Ahn would run for president.

“Those who made bets that the company would benefit from ties to Ahn if he got elected have been disappointed and sentiment is unlikely to improve anytime soon,” Min Kim, an analyst at Hyundai Securities Co., said by telephone today.

Sunny Electronics Corp. (004770), whose vice president previously worked for Ahnlab, also slumped by the daily limit 15 percent. Share of Shinwoo Co., where Park’s sister-in-law once served as a non-executive director, rallied 15 percent.

The official campaign period for the election runs from tomorrow through Dec. 18, during which candidates and designated supporters can advertise on television, radio and in newspapers, according to the election commission.

Candidates and party workers can also make telephone calls to voters between 6 a.m. to 11 p.m. and nationally televised debates between the candidates will take place on Dec. 4, 10 and 16, according to the commission.

The Chosun Ilbo survey of 1,000 voters had a margin of error of plus or minus 3.1 percentage points and was conducted Nov. 24-25.

To contact the reporters on this story: Seonjin Cha in Seoul at scha2@bloomberg.net; Cynthia Kim in Seoul at ckim170@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Peter Hirschberg at phirschberg@bloomberg.net

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