South Korean presidential hopeful resigns amid bribery scandal

South Korea's independent presidential candidate Ahn Cheol-Soo speaking during a press conference at the Seoul Foreign Correspondents Club in Seoul.
South Korea's independent presidential candidate Ahn Cheol-Soo speaking during a press conference at the Seoul Foreign Correspondents Club in Seoul.PHOTO: AFP

SEOUL (AFP) - A high-profile South Korean politician and presidential hopeful has resigned as the head of his new opposition party that has been rocked by a bribery scandal.

Ahn Cheol Soo, a former IT software tycoon, stepped down as co-leader of the People's Party on Tuesday (June 28), amid allegations that its members received tens of thousand of dollars in kickbacks from two local companies before legislative elections in April.

"All political responsibility for this case rests with me. I put down the co-chairmanship to take all the responsiblity," Ahn told journalists.

Ahn, who is very popular with younger voters, rose to political prominence as a centrist independent candidate in the 2012 presidential election He dropped out of the race to support the main opposition candidate Moon Jae In, who eventually lost to the conservative Park Geun Hye.

Ahn and Moon are both expected to run again in the next presidential poll in December 2017.

The National Election Commission claims that two lawmakers and a senior official from Ahn's People's Party - which was only set up in January - were implicated in receiving some US$200,000 in kickbacks from local firms.

The official was arrested on charges of violating the law controlling political funds.

Prosecution authorities have also grilled the two lawmakers but stopped short of pressing charges.

Ahn's party, which has promised a "new politics," won 38 seats in April's parliamentary election.