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Maverick human rights lawyer to run for president

Former lawmaker Park Chan-jong will declare his bid to run in the Dec. 19 presidential election in a news conference on Thursday, an association said.

He will take part in a nomination race to become the candidate of a moderate civic group launched last month by scholars, experts and activists to field an independent candidate.

The human rights lawyer and former five-term lawmaker has drawn public attention with controversial remarks including that the National Assembly should be blown up, and his roles in politically sensitive cases.

Park, 73, was first elected to public office in 1973 as a member of the ruling conservative party. But during Chun Doo-hwan’s military rule in the 1980s, Park headed the defense counsel of student democracy activists.

He played a pivotal role in uncovering the death of Park Jong-chul, a student democracy activist who died from electric torture and waterboarding in 1987, which sparked nationwide protests that accumulated in the June Democracy Movement.

After Chun’s abdication, Park led the efforts to unite the divided factions of the pro-democracy movement split between Kim Dae-jung and Kim Young-sam. He earned the nickname “Mr. Clean” for his corruption-free image. He ran for the 1992 presidential election as an independent candidate, gaining 6.2 percent of the popular vote.

Park currently heads the Asia Economic Research Institute and the Just People Society.

By Samuel Songhoon Lee