SEOUL • Mr Moon Jae In, the former head of the Democratic Party, is South Korea's most favoured presidential hopeful, according to a poll done after last Friday's impeachment verdict.
According to the poll conducted at the weekend by the Korea Research Centre, Mr Moon received the highest approval rating - 29.9 per cent - among a list of presidential hopefuls.
The poll, commissioned by Yonhap news agency and broadcaster KBS, surveyed 2,046 South Koreans and had a margin of error of plus or minus 2.2 percentage points.
Mr Moon, 64, has long been seen as a favourite to win the presidential race.
He was born in the southern island of Geoje in 1952 during the Korean War, after his North Korean parents fled to the South.
His father was a menial worker in Geoje while his mother peddled eggs in the nearby port city of Busan, with the baby Moon strapped to her back, the politician wrote in his autobiography.
He entered law school in Seoul in 1972 but was arrested and expelled for leading a student protest against the authoritarian rule of dictator Park Chung Hee - the ousted president's father.
Mr Moon returned to school in 1980, only to be arrested again.
His close friendship with future president Roh Moo Hyun began in 1982 when they opened a law firm in Busan focusing on human and civil rights issues, reported Agence France-Presse.
He joined the Roh administration as a presidential aide, tasked with weeding out official corruption and screening candidates for top government posts, before rising to become his chief of staff.
Former president Roh committed suicide in 2009 after being questioned over graft allegations. Despite the scandal, Professor Kang Won Taek, a political science professor at Seoul National University, said Mr Moon "always remained untainted by allegations of corruption and abuse of power".
Mr Moon has promised to curb the concentration of economic power in the hands of the chaebols, the family-run business groups whose ties to government have been exposed in the wide-ranging scandal that saw Ms Park impeached.
But analyst Park Kie Duck, former head of the private Sejong Institute, sounded a warning. "He lacks political acumen. He is too soft to cope with the dirty games in realpolitik," he told Agence France-Presse.