Chronology of South Korea's 2012 presidential election
The following is a chronology of major events leading up to South Korea's presidential election Wednesday.
-- June 17: Moon Jae-in, the 59-year-old former chief of staff to late President Roh Moo-hyun, officially announces his bid for president, challenging long-time presidential hopeful Park Geun-hye of the ruling Saenuri Party.
-- July 10: Park, the 60-year-old daughter of late authoritarian President Park Chung-hee, officially announces her bid for president, pledging to promote a fair economy, expand welfare and improve relations with North Korea. Park ran for president in 2007, but narrowly lost to incumbent President Lee Myung-bak in a party primary.
-- Aug. 20: Park wins the presidential nomination of the ruling Saenuri Party in a landslide victory at a party convention. She became the first woman in South Korea to run for president as a candidate of a major political party.
-- Sept. 16: Moon clinches the presidential nomination of the main opposition Democratic United Party (DUP) after winning all of the party's regional primaries. In his acceptance speech, the former human rights lawyer pledges to push for an inter-Korean summit in his first year in office.
-- Sept. 19: Ahn Cheol-soo, the 50-year-old founder of South Korea's largest anti-virus software firm, AhnLab, declares his bid for president, ending months of speculation about his presidential ambitions. The former medical doctor and professor demonstrated his political influence in the October 2011 by-elections after backing independent Seoul mayor candidate Park Won-soon, who went on to win the race.
-- Sept. 24: Park apologizes to the victims of her late father's
1961-1979 dictatorship in an apparent move to shed the historical baggage that had plagued her campaign. The apology came as public opinion surveys started to show her lagging behind her liberal rivals.
-- Oct. 25: The minor conservative Advancement and Unification Party agrees to merge with the ruling party in an apparent move to consolidate the conservative vote. The merger increases the Saenuri Party's number of seats in parliament from 149 to 153 in the 300-seat National Assembly, with the minor party expected to play a key role in rallying votes in the battleground Chungcheong region where it has enjoyed strong support.
-- Nov. 6: Moon and Ahn agree to merge their candidacies by the Nov. 26 candidate registration deadline in a widely expected move aimed at boosting the liberal camp's chances against the conservative Park.
-- Nov. 23: Ahn drops out of the race after negotiations to merge candidacies with Moon fall through. The two sides had disagreed over how to conduct a nationwide poll that would determine which of them should run as the single liberal contender. Ahn bows out, saying he will still continue his campaign for a new form of politics
-- Nov. 27: The 22-day official campaigning period kicks off, with a total of seven candidates running for president.
-- Dec. 6: Ahn declares full support for Moon and calls on his supporters to back the opposition candidate for a change in government. His declaration of unconditional support follows days of uncertainty over whether the former candidate would throw his weight behind his former rival.
-- Dec. 13: Park maintains a narrow lead over Moon in the last set of public opinion polls released ahead of the election.
-- Dec. 16: Lee Jung-hee, the candidate of the minor opposition Unified Progressive Party, drops out of the race in an apparent move to consolidate the opposition vote.
-- Dec. 19: Park is elected president of South Korea.