South Korea’s Political Kingmaker Resigns Amid Party Scandal

  • Ahn Cheol Soo gives up leadership of key opposition party
  • Resignation setback for the potential presidential candidate

A software tycoon who had turned into an influential political figure in South Korea resigned as the leader of his opposition party Wednesday.

QuickTake Corruption

Ahn Cheol Soo said he was stepping down as the co-chair of the People’s Party, which holds the balance of power in South Korea’s parliament, dealing a blow to his prospects as a presidential hopeful. Ahn, who will remain in the national assembly, said he was taking “political responsibility" for a graft scandal that had engulfed his party, according to a statement posted on the party’s website.

A state election watchdog claims three party members may have received about 238 million won ($205,000) in illicit political funds from local firms ahead of parliamentary elections on April 13, according to the Yonhap news agency.

“It shows once again how much trouble Korea has in developing a modern party system,” said Robert Kelly, a political science professor at South Korea’s Pusan National University. “Corruption and personalism continue to plague Korean parties, ironically including the party whose main appeal is that it is above this stuff.”

Ahn became a prospect for the 2017 presidential race after his People’s Party nearly doubled its seats in parliament in the elections. It upended the assembly’s two-party dominance, denying President Park Geun Hye’s party a majority and setting up Ahn as a kingpin in the legislature.

Ahn, 54, considered a run against Park in the 2012 presidential race and polls suggested he would have been competitive, but he opted to support another candidate. Park is limited to a single, five-year term.

Ahn’s party landed 38 seats in the 300-member parliament, giving him the potentially deciding vote on legislation. Saenuri lost 24 seats to finish with 122 and the main opposition squeaked ahead with 123.

Ahnlab Inc., the company he founded in 1995, went on to become South Korea’s leading anti-virus software developer.

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