After months of hearsay and speculation, popular professor Ahn Cheol-soo announced his presidential bid Wednesday, pledging to be an alternative political force that will put the people’s desire for change into action.
Standing before a packed crowd of journalists, supporters and aides, Ahn calmly but resolutely vowed to bring unity and co-prosperity to the polarized nation.
“I will handle the task of this era that has been handed to me,” Ahn said at a press conference held at the Army Salvation Art Hall in Chungjeongno, Seoul.
Remaining ambiguous about the anticipated alliance with the main opposition Democratic United Party, Ahn said a true reform of politics approved by the people must come first.
“At this juncture where none of that has been achieved yet, it is inappropriate to discuss any union with (DUP presidential candidate Rep. Moon Jae-in),” Ahn said.
Speaking in front of a large banner that read, “A new change chosen by the people begins,” Ahn said his political venture would continue, even if he was not elected.
|Ahn Cheol-soo declares his presidential bid in a news conference Wednesday. (Kim Myung-sub/The Korea Herald)|
“Regardless of the outcome of the election, I will work hard in this field and try to be of a positive help to our country.”
During the 40-minute press conference, Ahn also discussed the problems faced by South Korea and underscored the current politics as the starting point of change.
“Our lives can change when the politics have changed. An economy that centers on the people can only be achieved when new policies are in place. … We must revolutionize the economy by uniting economic democratization and welfare with economic growth,” he said.
Ahn also touched briefly on his vision for inter-Korean relations, commenting, “A peaceful regime is only possible when it is balanced with national security.”
The explosive entry of Ahn into the presidential race is expected to shake up the political arena beset by a series of irregularities involving past and present lawmakers.
Saying he would step down from all his current posts including as the dean of the Graduate School of Convergence Science and Technology at Seoul National University, Ahn also vowed to donate his remaining stake in Ahnlab, the anti-virus software company he founded, if he is elected president.
The 50-year-old professor, who has worked in multiple professions, has enjoyed a steady rise in popularity this year.
The strong support behind him was interpreted as a sign of the public’s growing fatigue with the existing political establishment, and has posed a threat to elected nominees including Moon and the ruling Saenuri Party’s Rep. Park Geun-hye.
While the Saenuri Party focused on emphasizing Ahn’s inexperience, the DUP has been devoted to forming an alliance with him in the lead up to the election.
Once a doctor, then an entrepreneur, and later a professor, Ahn said his “liability” of not having any political experience would actually be his best asset.
“I not only lack political experience, but also political machine or support groups. But that also means I am free of political debt.”
As crowds holding national flags cheered, Ahn devoted much of his time to describe the ills of the society, and promised to solve them through a network of experts.
“South Korea is already a large system comprised of wise citizens and numerous experts who are each contributing their expertise in their requisite place. The answer lies in that system,” Ahn said.
To questions on the possibility of him joining hands with Moon, Ahn remained ambiguous, saying it was not yet time to do so, and that a union was a decision for the public to make.
Ahn also briefly criticized Park, saying it was her duty as a presidential candidate to clarify her thoughts on past administrations.
The former chairwoman has been denounced for failing to acknowledge the iron-fisted nature of her late father President Park Chung-hee’s rule.
Ahn’s press conference was attended by his aides, who are expected to play key roles in his camp.
They included Lee Hun-jai, former vice prime minister for economy; lawyer Keum Tae-sup; Kim Min-jeon, professor at Kyung Hee University; Lee Won-jae, former director of Hankyoreh Economic Research Institute; Jeong Ji-hoon, director at Myongji Hospital’s IT Convergence Science Institute; and novelist Cho Jung-rae.
Moon, meanwhile, welcomed Ahn to the race.
“I believe Ahn entering the race will greatly contribute to changing the parties and achieving new politics longed by the people,” Moon was quoted as saying by his spokeswoman Rep. Jin Sun-mee.
To Ahn’s proposal to host a trilateral meeting with Moon and Park, Jin said more time was needed to sincerely review the significance of such an event.
By Lee Joo-hee (firstname.lastname@example.org)