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September 21, 2017

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Park Geun-hye dismisses rivals' merger

SEOUL -- South Korea's conservative presidential frontrunner Park Geun-hye Wednesday dismissed the decision of her two left-leaning rivals to merge their campaigns as a political "circus."

Moon Jae-in from the main opposition Democratic United Party and Ahn Cheol-soo, a software mogul running as an independent, announced Tuesday a potentially game-changing alliance with a single, unified candidate.

"Will they be able to overcome the crisis in people's livelihoods with such a 'merger circus' that has nothing to do with the people's lives?" Yonhap News Agency quoted Park as telling a meeting of her policy advisers.

"How can we put people's lives in the hands of those who are obsessed with taking power through publicity stunts rather than developing policies?" she said at a separate meeting with supporters.

Although Moon and Ahn agreed to merge their campaigns, they have yet to decide which one will drop out of the race in favor of the other.

They promised to announce a decision before Nov. 25 — the final deadline for candidate registration before the Dec. 19 election.

Lee Nak-yon, a lawmaker who co-chairs Moon's election camp, said Park's comments reflected the concern within her ruling New Frontier Party over the opposition merger.

"The NFP is overreacting ... out of a sense of crisis," Lee said.

Both Moon and Ahn had come under intense pressure to merge and avoid splitting the liberal vote, which would effectively hand the presidency to Park who has a lock on the sizeable conservative bloc.

Polls suggest Park would easily win in the event of a three-horse race, but they put her neck and neck in a face-off with either Moon or Ahn.

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