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South Korea's Ahn Cheol-soo leaves own party

Former South Korean presidential candidate Ahn Cheol-soo said Wednesday he has decided to leave a party he helped create. File Photo by Keizo Mori/UPI
Former South Korean presidential candidate Ahn Cheol-soo said Wednesday he has decided to leave a party he helped create. File Photo by Keizo Mori/UPI | License Photo

Jan. 29 (UPI) -- A maverick South Korean politician who previously ran for president abruptly left a party he helped create on Wednesday, citing differences with another leader of the center-right Bareunmirae Party.

Ahn Cheol-soo, a multimillionaire software entrepreneur turned politician, suggested on Wednesday he would create a new party ahead of general elections on April 15, local newspaper Hankook Ilbo reported.

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"I am leaving the Bareunmirae Party with a bitter heart," Ahn said, citing a dispute with incumbent party leader Sohn Hak-gyu. "I intend to jump into a massive tidal wave that even I cannot admit to knowing."

Ahn's potential plan to start his own party is likely to face challenges, according to the Hankook Ilbo. Of the seven pro-Ahn politicians in the party, only one lawmaker, Kwon Eun-hee, can defect without affecting future prospects, the report says.

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Ahn's return to politics after his defeat in the Seoul mayoral election in 2018 is gaining the interest of the main opposition Liberty Korea Party, South Korea's leading conservatives, News 1 reported.

LKP leader Hwang Kyo-ahn said Wednesday conservatives across the political spectrum should "band together and fight," in response to a reporter's question regarding Ahn. Ahn has previously served on presidential councils under former President Lee Myung-bak, a conservative.

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Hwang also described President Moon Jae-in's administration as "tyranny" and said unity is needed among the "liberty-seeking right wing" and the "liberty-seeking coalition of citizens" in the country.

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Park Hyung-joon, chairman of a conservative coalition, said the "most desirable thing" for Ahn is to join the coalition, extending an invitation to the former entrepreneur who has been credited for launching the first three-party system in Korea in recent times.

Ahead of April elections, parties are launching aggressive campaigns to gain the attention of voters.

Cho Kyoung-taek, an LKP lawmaker, said Wednesday the government needs to do more to mitigate the coronavirus outbreak in China, local network SBS reported.

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Cho said Chinese nationals should be temporarily banned from entering South Korea, and Chinese tourists should be repatriated. A South Korean petition proposing a ban recently surpassed 580,000 signatures.

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