The Democratic United Party’s presidential campaign team on Tuesday made its most forceful appeal yet of independent Ahn Cheol-soo to start discussing the merging of his candidacy with its candidate Moon Jae-in.
“The discussion on single candidacy cannot be delayed anymore,” said Moon’s chief communication man Rep. Woo Sang-ho at a press briefing.
“We formally ask Ahn’s side how much longer they wish to delay the discussion,” Woo said, adding that they should start talking next week at the latest under the election schedule.
The alliance maneuvering between Moon and Ahn is expected to pick up speed following the DUP’s move to seize the initiative.
Ahn returned with a counter-offer, saying the alliance discussions should come after his complete policy announcement slated for Nov. 10.
“I am not saying I would not align. But I must tend to my promise first (to present my policies),” spokesman Yoo Min-young quoted Ahn as saying at the campaign’s morning meeting.
“Seeking a consensus on the value, not on the method, of an alliance should come first,” Ahn was quoted as saying.
His campaign instead continued to focus on Ahn’s program for political reform.
Independent presidential candidate Ahn Cheol-soo (left) takes his seat next to the Democratic United Party’s presidential candidate Moon Jae-in at a meeting for small retailers in Seoul on Tuesday. (Park Hyun-koo/The Korea Herald)
“The DUP will admit that the spirit of the times for change lies with Ahn,” co-chairman of Ahn’s election headquarters Kim Song-sik said in a radio interview. He refused to discuss the anticipated time schedule. “We see that the (discussions) will come about naturally.”
The Saenuri Party came out swinging at both Moon and Ahn.
“Moon and Ahn are wasting time over the single candidacy and the presidential election is turning from battling on policy to becoming past-oriented and focusing on popularity,” said Kim Moo-sung, general chief of Park’s election committee headquarters.
“I have no intention to argue the pros and cons of the opposition’s alliance, but the two candidates must get out of this black hole immediately.”
The looming union between Moon and Ahn is to fundamentally change the dynamics of the presidential race currently led by Park.
DUP sources said Woo’s proposal was more of a gesture and the official offer for a single candidacy would be made after under-the-table discussions take place.
For Moon, the longer he waits, the higher the chances are that he will face a public opinion poll to determine the single candidacy, a process considered advantageous for the popular Ahn. Moon reportedly prefers a primary-type selection process.
A partnership between Moon and Ahn has been consistently demanded by opposition followers. They recently stepped up their calls, setting the stage for the discussions to begin.
A group of 48 prominent figures in film, the arts, religion and academia a week ago held a press conference at the National Assembly, announcing “Political reform and a single candidacy is the democracy and the spirit of the times.”
Hwang Sok-yong, one of Korea’s most acclaimed authors of modern times, who joined the conference, went as far as to say, “If single candidacy and change of the administration is not achieved, I will leave this country.”
He again commented on the situation at a political debate last Saturday: “There are some who say they will shun both (Ahn and Moon) if the single candidacy is further prolonged. If we fail to change the administration this time, I would rather run a small restaurant in Provence and grow old.”
Seoul National University professor Cho Kuk also joined the conference and even began collecting signatures on his Facebook page urging the alliance.
“If there is no single candidacy, I will lead a candlelight vigil,” he said last Wednesday.
To conservatives’ criticism of his political participation, Cho retorted, “If we succeed in installing the third administration (of the Democratic Party), I will not come near Yeouido for the next 10 years.” Yeouido, where the National Assembly is located, is used as a metonym for the political world.
Volunteering as Moon and Ahn’s intermediary, Cho has been actively participating in debates hosted by the DUP and suggesting various methods of an alliance such as an open debate to be followed by public survey and a mobile vote.
Other minor progressive politicians, in the meantime, criticized the hype surrounding the alliance.
“Instead of paying attention to the trifling matter of who will become the candidate, the entire opposition forces must seek a solution to the pending political issues. But there is so little communication between Ahn and Moon,” said Rhyu Si-min, a chairman of the election committee for Sim Sang-jeong of the newly formed Progressive Justice Party.
“It is inappropriate for (Ahn) to present ideas that jump on the bandwagon of the people’s antagonism toward current politics,” Rhyu said. He also criticized Moon for failing to meet the desire of the people to change the administration.
By Lee Joo-hee (email@example.com)