Former People's Party presidential candidate Ahn Cheol-soo leaves a ceremony to formally disband the party's campaign, Wednesday. / Yonhap
By Kim Hyo-jin
|Rep. Park Jie-won|
"I will take all responsibility for the defeat. Including me, all party stakeholders decided to quit en masse," he said in a ceremony to formally disband the party's campaign at the National Assembly.
The party will elect its new floor leader next week, he said.
Ahn, who once raced neck-and-neck in opinion polls with Moon Jae-in of the Democratic Party of Korea, the eventual winner, came in third in Tuesday's poll, with 21.4 percent of the votes.
The center-left politician even lost to Hong Joon-pyo of the Liberty Korea Party who secured 24 percent of the vote.
What embarrassed Ahn and his party even more was that he suffered a crushing defeat to Moon in Gwangju and Jeolla provinces, the party's stronghold.
Ahn, who appeared at the ceremony, told reporters he will "take time for refreshment," but did not specify his plans.
But he indicated that he will continue to remain in politics, dismissing simmering speculation that he may announce his retirement.
"I fell short of the people's expectations. I failed to envision their yearning for change. I hope Moon will put forth his utmost efforts for national unity, social reforms and the future," he said while sitting along with party members.
"I was defeated but will not be let down. I will try harder to fashion my experience into an asset for political improvement. I will play all possible roles for a better future."
Ahn dubbed the election a show of "improved democracy," saying a variety of voices were heard during the campaign.
"There were calls for new hopes from conservatives, and on the other hand, for true values from progressives. I spoke of changes for the future. And you welcomed it. I believe the experience of expressing multiple interests and demands will give the country momentum for development," he said.
Though he has walked away from the election a loser, he has more chances to shine during the five-year term of the new administration, according to political observers.
The ruling DPK now has 120 seats, falling short of securing a majority 151 assembly seats, which requires the backing of the 40-seat People's Party in passing bills.
Aware of the current parliamentary landscape, Moon stressed that he seeks cooperation from the party on his visit to its leader Park earlier in the day.
Park congratulated Moon's victory but did not loosen tension, saying, "We will mostly cooperate with the President in state management but, as the opposition, we will hold the government in check if we need to."
Moon replied, "I'd like to plea for your cooperation and comrade-like positioning with the DPK."
Despite the key role expected from his party, Ahn cannot help staying out of the parliamentary scene for even a small amount of time.
Ahn gave up his Assembly seat when he registered his bid for the presidency at the beginning of the 22-day presidential campaign. It is likely he would not step forward until the local election in June next year to support the party's election campaign.
In the 2012 election, Ahn left for the U.S. on the ballot day and came back to the country 82 days later. He then announced his bid for a parliamentary seat for the Nowon district, northeastern Seoul, in the April by-elections.
Meanwhile, Sim Sang-jung of the Justice Party, who came in fifth in the election, held a press conference and called on the new President to actively push for reforms.
"We expect Moon will make a successful president who can change society for the better by realizing the public desire reflected during the candlelit rallies," she said.
The progressive politician vowed to renew her party to become competent enough to lead an administration. "We will be reborn as a party with high potential through revamping our visions, policies, and structure," she said.