South Korean opposition far apart on presidential deal

Mon Nov 19, 2012 2:27am EST
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By Ju-min Park and David Chance

SEOUL (Reuters) - With a week until a deadline to finalize nominations for South Korea's December 19 presidential election, neither of two main opposition challengers appears willing to step aside, which will likely mean the conservatives retain the country's most powerful office.

Moon Jae-in, who has been nominated by the main left-of-centre opposition party, has held talks with independent Ahn Cheol-soo over a joint platform that could lead to a single candidate, but the talks have been bedeviled by infighting and leaks, with neither side appearing willing to give way.

"If I yield arbitrarily, it would be equivalent of breach of trust (for my party)" Moon said on Monday.

Speaking within minutes in the same building, Ahn declined to be drawn on whether the two sides could agree on a single candidate.

Opinion polls show that either Moon or Ahn would stand a chance of beating conservative Park Geun-hye in a straight fight. But a split vote see Park into the presidential palace.

Park is the daughter of dictator Park Chung-hee who ruled the country for 18 years until he was killed by an assassin. Park's mother was assassinated earlier, in an attack backed by North Korea.

Ahn told journalists on Monday Park could be defeated if the backers of both challengers joined forces.

"If we are able to get support from those people who support both camps, I am confident the likelihood of defeating candidate Park is very high," Ahn said.   Continued...

Moon Jae-in (L), presidential candidate of the main opposition Democratic United Party, speaks with Ahn Cheol-soo, an independent presidential candidate, during a photo call before their meeting at the Kim Koo Museum in Seoul November 6, 2012. REUTERS/Kim Hong-Ji