S. Korean mogul quits opposition party

SEOUL • A popular South Korean software mogul who ran for president in 2012 said he was quitting the main opposition party in a major blow to the embattled left-leaning alliance before a general election.

Mr Ahn Cheol Soo, announcing his departure from the New Politics Alliance for Democracy (NPAD) yesterday, said it had "no hope" of beating the ruling conservatives in the April parliamentary vote and accused other NPAD leaders of incompetence.

Mr Ahn, founder of Seoul's top computer anti-virus maker, rose to political stardom as a centrist independent candidate in the presidential poll based on his popularity among young voters. He dropped out of the race to support the main opposition candidate, Mr Moon Jae In, who lost to the conservative Park Geun Hye.

Mr Ahn later won a parliamentary seat as a liberal independent before forging an alliance with Mr Moon's party to try to unify the opposition vote. But the alliance faltered in recent months as Mr Ahn accused other opposition leaders including Mr Moon of being complacent and resisting reforms needed to win the 2016 general election.

"The current main opposition party has no hope for our people... we have no hope for government change, including the general election, if we continue this way," he told a press conference.

"I have reached the conclusion that any change and reform is impossible in this party," he said without elaborating on whether he would create his own party. Several other NPAD members vowed to follow Mr Ahn's example.

The ruling conservative Saenuri Party currently holds 53.4 per cent of seats in Parliament, followed by 43.2 per cent for the main opposition party.

The NPAD has for years lagged behind the conservative ruling party in voter support.

President Park enjoys strong backing from older voters despite criticism that her administration is reverting to the authoritarian ways of her late father, strongman Park Chung Hee.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on December 14, 2015, with the headline 'S. Korean mogul quits opposition party'. Print Edition | Subscribe