Ahn Cheol-soo, a South Korean professor and the founder of AhnLab Inc.,… (Jeon Heon-kyun / European…)
SEOUL — With less than 90 days left before this year's South Korean presidential election, computer software mogul Ahn Cheol-soo has announced his presidential bid as an independent, turning the campaign into a three-way race.
A former physician, founder of a software company and a professor at Seoul National University, the 50-year-old Ahn last week suddenly became a dark-horse candidate popular among voters in their 20s and 30s.
Even before his announcement, polls showed Ahn closing in on Park Geun-hye, 60, a five-term legislator with the ruling New Frontier Party who is seen as the strongest candidate to succeed President Lee Myung-bak.
Park, the first female presidential candidate in Korea, is the daughter of former dictator Park Chung-hee, who ruled Korea from 1961 until his assassination in 1979.
Along with Park, Ahn is also running against the opposition Democratic United Party's Moon Jae-in. Moon, a former chief of staff to late President Roh Moo-hyun, has been on the rise since easily winning the left-leaning party's primary.
Some analysts noted that Ahn's entry in the race could draw votes away from Moon and hand the election to Park, unless he joined forces with Moon in some fashion to defeat Park. In his news conference, Ahn gave ambiguous answers when asked about a possible arrangement with Park.
"There are two most important principles: First, making real change and renovating the politics, and second, gaining the people's support," Ahn said. "I believe it's inappropriate to talk about merging at this point before these two things are fulfilled."
Choi is a special correspondent.