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(2nd LD) Left-leaning presidential candidate Lee Jung-hee quits race

All Headlines 16:18 December 16, 2012

(ATTN: ADDS reaction from parties in last 4 paras)

SEOUL, Dec. 16 (Yonhap) -- With South Korea's presidential election only three days away, Lee Jung-hee, a left-leaning candidate from a minor party, decided to quit the race on Sunday.

Lee from the Unified Progressive Party made the decision in an emergency camp meeting earlier on Sunday and she will not attend the televised debate scheduled for 8:00 p.m., her aides said.

"I step down as a presidential candidate in accordance with the people's hope for integrating (opposition) progressive, democratic and reform-minded forces to achieve a change of government," Lee said in a press conference.

Lee also claimed, as she resigned, that a victory for Park Geun-hye from the ruling Saenuri Party would mean an "irrevocable regression of history," referring to the dictatorship of Park Chung-hee, candidate Park's father, during the 1960s and 1970s.

Lee's resignation came as the Dec. 19 presidential election is expected to be a close race between ruling-party candidate Park and leading opposition party candidate Moon Jae-in.

The main opposition Democratic United Party welcomed Lee's step-down, saying that it reflects her acceptance of South Koreans' longing for brining in a new political force.

"Candidate Moon and the Democratic United Party will achieve a change of government at any costs and implement new politics as well as opening a new era where human comes first," Park Kwang-on, a spokesman for Moon's election camp, said.

Experts said the resignation of the minor party candidate is expected to help Moon.

Park's camp accused Lee of colluding with Moon for unfair solidarity.


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