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South Korea’s Ahn, Moon to Merge Presidential Campaigns

S. Korea’s Ahn, Moon Agree to Merge Presidential Campaigns
South Korean presidential candidate Moon Jae-In, left, of the main opposition party, and independent presidential candidate Ahn Cheol-Soo, right, smile as they attend a ceremony to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the National Federation of Fisheries Cooperatives in Seoul. Photographer: Jung Yeon-Je/AFP/Getty Images

South Korean independent presidential candidate Ahn Cheol Soo will combine forces with main opposition party nominee Moon Jae In in a bid to stop the ruling party’s Park Geun Hye from winning next month’s election.

The two men agreed at a meeting yesterday in Seoul to continue discussions on who should be the remaining candidate for the Dec. 19 race to replace outgoing President Lee Myung Bak, Moon spokesman Park Kwang On told reporters. The choice will be announced before the Nov. 26 deadline to register with the National Election Commission, he said.

Polls show the New Frontier Party’s Park winning a three-way race and becoming the first female leader of Asia’s fourth-biggest economy. The candidates all advocate expanding social welfare, boosting jobs and reducing the income gap, and Moon has advocated a unified opposition to stop Lee’s party from staying in office.

“This will work against Park Geun Hye in the bigger scheme of things because she needed a three-way race to split the vote,” said Sonn Ho Chul, a political science professor at Sogang University in Seoul. “At the same time, these two opposition candidates need to be able to move the people and show that this merger isn’t just a ploy.”

Moon and Ahn have about three weeks to finalize a deal until the official campaigning period begins Nov. 27, after which it becomes more difficult for a candidate to drop out. Moon expressed confidence in an Oct. 9 interview that he and Ahn would unite to unseat the ruling party.

“I am certain there will be a merger,” he said.

Approval Ratings

Park spokesman Ahn Hyung Hwan today said “some of the uncertainty in the presidential election” has been resolved after last night’s meeting. “The New Frontier Party hopes that an opposition candidate is decided as soon as possible so that he will be fairly vetted by the people,” Ahn said in an e-mailed statement.

Park’s approval rating stood at 42.8 percent, ahead of Ahn’s 26.8 percent and Moon’s 23.6 percent, according to a weekly poll by Seoul-based Realmeter. In a two-way race, Ahn leads Park 48.7 percent to 44.9 percent, while Moon trails her 47.2 percent to 45.1 percent, according to the Realmeter poll.

The Oct. 29-Nov. 4 survey of 5,250 respondents had a margin of error of 1.4 percentage points.

Park, 60, is the eldest daughter of late dictator Park Chung Hee and served as his first lady after her mother was killed in a 1974 assassination attempt by North Korea on her father. She said on Nov. 5 that she’ll seek to meet with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un to improve relations should she win.

Ahn, 50, is the founder of Ahnlab Inc., South Korea’s biggest antivirus software maker. The one-time medical doctor and Wharton MBA holder declared his candidacy in September having never run for office.

Moon, 59, is a former human-rights lawyer who was jailed in 1975 for leading street protests against the government of Park’s father. He later served as chief of staff to President Roh Moo Hyun, who was in office from 2003 to 2008.

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