Independent South Korean presidential candidate voluntarily withdraws from race

A South Korean presidential contender has voluntarily dropped his bid after talks on merging campaigns with another opposition runner produced little breakthrough.

Independent Ahn Cheol-soo announced the withdrawl on Friday. His exit means liberal candidate Moon Jae-in will compete against conservative front-runner Park Geun-hye in the Dec. 19 vote.

Ahn says he is withdrawing to keep his public promise to merge with Moon before formal registration for candidacy begins Sunday.

Media polls have shown neither Ahn nor Moon could defeat Park in a hypothetical three-way race.

Ahn is a medical doctor-turned-software magnate while Moon is a former human rights lawyer who served under former President Roh Moo-hyun. Park is the daughter of late dictator Park Chung-hee.

Current President Lee Myung-bak ends his single, five-year term in February.