Speaking at a press conference after hiking up Mudeungsan in Gwangju, Ahn said, “I would like to revisit Mudeungsan next winter when it will be covered by propitious snow. I would like to once again meet the morning of Mudeungsan that spells an end to the outdated era to open a new one.”
|Ahn Cheol-soo (Yonhap)|
The mountain that towers over Gwangju has historically and spiritually been considered a symbol of the defense against external invasions, as well as for the fight for democracy.
Pledging his foremost task would be to do away with the extremes of both sides, he said he would exert all efforts to change the administration, politics, generation and entire system.
“Next year’s presidential election will be a confrontation of the past and the future.”
Connoting himself as the representative of “reasonable reform forces,” Ahn said the results in the April general election showed such yearning among the Korean people.
The People’s Party, which Ahn co-founded, swept almost all seats in the Gwangju and Jeolla Provinces, traditional strongholds for the main opposition The Minjoo Party of Korea.
The party that is mainly composed of Minjoo Party defectors has gained an upper hand in the National Assembly by holding the 38 casting votes the make a difference between the Saenuri Party’s 129 seats and the Minjoo Party’s 121 seats.
Ahn, who entered politics with a bang as a presidential candidate in the 2012 election, was forced to abandon his dream previously amid calls for a single candidacy among opposition candidates to go up against then-rival presidential candidate Park Geun-hye of the Saenuri Party. He withdrew his bid on Nov. 23, just weeks before Election Day and expressed support, albeit reluctantly, for the candidate of what was then the Democratic United Party Moon Jae-in.
|The People`s Party`s former co-chief Rep. Ahn Cheol-soo speaks during a press conference in Gwangju on Sunday. (Yonhap)|
The doctor-turned-entrepreneur-turned-politician has proclaimed “new politics” as his mantra, and has been enjoying relatively high support ratings among presidential hopefuls. His party, which collected several bigwigs representing the politically vocal Gwangju and Jeolla provinces, has since been taking a centrist approach to varying issues and policies.
In the latest survey by pollster Realmeter on Aug. 25, Ahn was ranked third among presidential hopefuls after UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon at 24.1 percent and Moon Jae-in at 17.7 percent, coming in at 9.7 percent. Tailing Ahn was Seoul Mayor Park Won-soon at 6.3 percent in the survey conducted on 1,518 eligible voters.
Ahn, born in Miryang, South Gyeongsang Province in 1962, won his first term at the National Assembly by running as an independent for the Nowon-C constituency in northeastern Seoul in the by-election in 2013. He started to work on founding his own party, but later united with the New Politics Alliance for Democracy, a successor to the Democratic United Party and precursor to The Minjoo Party of Korea, in 2014.
He became the co-chairman along with Kim Han-gil, but both resigned after the party’s defeat in the following by-elections.
Ahn and Kim later went on to establish a new party of their own, the People’s Party, together with former justice minister and six-termer Chun Jung-bae in January this year.
He won his second term in his constituency in the general elections in April.
Ahn, who has referred himself as the Bernie Sanders of Korea, has sought to distance himself from the established politics of gimmicks.
He resigned from the co-chairmanship in June this year upon a kickback scandal involving the party’s key campaigners during the parliamentary election.
During his Sunday press conference, Ahn said, “I will devote my all to serve the demand to change the politics, the lives of the people and the era, and to respond to the orders that we, the People’s Party, must accomplish the administration change.”
Forecasting that next year’s race will be a collision of beliefs for the future that will set the future of the country, Ahn said his party will open all doors, self-create challenges and continue to break through them to earn the final choice, referring to the presidential election.
“When you look closely at the meaning of the (last) general elections, it was a judgement against the two major rivaling parties. The flow of the proud public sentiment will explode in next year’s race,” he said, adding that he anticipated seeing a radically high voter turnout.