Former presidential candidate Ahn Cheol-soo returned from the U.S. on Monday to prepare for the April 24 by-election and the widely speculated establishment of his new party.
In the April election, Ahn will run in the Seoul’s Nowon C constituency, which was left vacant after a court ruling stripped the seat from Roh Hoe-chan, the leader of the minor opposition Progressive Justice Party. The Supreme Court last month confirmed his conviction for disclosing illegally obtained information.
Along with Nowon C, one Busan and South Chungcheong Province constituency will be contended for in the upcoming by-elections.
“I want to practice low (humble) politics that treats the hearts and the lives of the people as important, and running for Nowon C is the first step for this,” Ahn said in the press conference held at Incheon International Airport on Monday. He added that he will now fulfill his promise of “walking any thorny path to achieve new politics” that he had made after resigning as a presidential candidate last year.
Ahn Cheol-soo waves at Incheon International Airport upon returning from the U.S. on Monday. (Kim Myung-sub/The Korea Herald)
He went on to say that he chose the Nowon C constituency as the capital and surrounding region were a “barometer of public sentiment” and that he planned to take small steps by solving problems apparent in the region.
Regarding speculation that he will establish a new party, Ahn said that nothing had been finalized in that regard, and that he would concentrate on appealing to the residents of the Nowon constituency for the time being.
On the subject of last year’s presidential election, Ahn said that he felt responsible for his shortcomings but declined to elaborate on issues surrounding the process of merging his campaign with that of Rep. Moon Jae-in of the Democratic United Party.
Ahn, however, commented that it was regretful that progress has not been made on the political reform measures drawn up during the campaign period.
Meanwhile the main opposition Democratic United Party highlighted new politics once again in an apparent effort to outshine Ahn on that issue.
New politics, or political reform, was a major issue during the presidential election with all major candidates pledging to bring about sweeping reforms to the political arena.
At a press conference on Sunday, Rep. Min Byung-doo set forth three targets the DUP would push for in its efforts to become a “good party.”
The targets are better use of social networking services, and to become a “grassroots party” and a party that achieves “harmonious rule.”
“The April 24 by-elections are not a contest between new and old politics, but a fight to prove who can realize more new politics,” Min said.
The DUP has also made more direct comments at Ahn since his return was announced on March 3.
A number of veteran DUP lawmakers have said that the party should run its own candidate regardless of Ahn, while DUP emergency committee member Rep. Sul Hoon has suggested that Ahn’s decision may be an error.
“As (Ahn) as a progressive bloc candidate in the presidential election, it is logical for him to negotiate with various progressive camps in choosing his course. In that regard, announcing that he will run in Nowon may have been rash,” Rep. Sul Hoon of the DUP said at a recent emergency committee meeting. He went on to suggest that Ahn should run in Busan’s Yeongdo-gu, adding that recent research had shown that Ahn would easily defeat a conservative candidate in the area.
Some DUP lawmakers, however, appear to be holding on to hopes that Ahn’s return will herald better days for the opposition bloc.
“As he was leaving the U.S., Ahn said that politics was a process of obtaining a result. The result is victory. (I) hope Ahn’s comeback to the political arena will be an opportunity for the progressive bloc’s victory,” Rep. Park Jie-won of the DUP said on his Twitter account on Monday.
Ahn told reporters at the U.S. airport that politics came down to “producing a result” saying that he was moved by the movie Lincoln’s portrayal of Abraham Lincoln and his persuading of the ruling and opposition parties to achieve tangible results.
While Ahn made his way to Korea, Ahn’s former aide Kyung Hee University professor Kim Min-jeon defended the former presidential candidate from critics.
Appearing on a local radio show Monday, Kim Min-jeon hit back at the opposition parties for attempting to keep Ahn from taking the Nowon C constituency.
Comparing Ahn as the youngest son of a family with high potential and the Progressive Justice Party and the DUP as jealous elder brothers, Kim Min-jeon criticized the parties for concentrating only on protecting their interests.
Since Ahn’s announcement, the Progressive Justice Party has put forward Roh’s wife Kim Ji-seon as its candidate for the Nowon C constituency. While the DUP hasn’t picked a candidate, the call to run its own candidate for the eastern Seoul constituency has been rising within the main opposition.
The Kyung Hee University professor also said that Ahn had waited to see whether Roh would be pardoned before announcing his bid for the Nowon C seat.
The Progressive Justice Party’s candidate for the constituency, Kim Ji-seon, for her part hit back saying that Ahn should not use Nowon C as an easy way back into politics.
By Choi He-suk (firstname.lastname@example.org