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The full text of the interview with Ahn Cheol-soo

Following are excerpts from The Korea Herald’s interview with Ahn Cheol-soo, the presidential candidate of the People’s Party. -- Ed.

Ahn Cheol-soo, the presidential candidate of the People’s Party (Yonhap)
Ahn Cheol-soo, the presidential candidate of the People’s Party (Yonhap)

Q: You have declared opposition to a US preventive strike on North Korea. Would you continue to oppose it even if Pyongyang proceeds with a sixth nuclear test or fire an intercontinental ballistic missile?

A: A pre-emptive attack should not be allowed even if the North carries out a sixth nuclear test or launches an ICBM, but sanctions should be enforced. A pre-emptive measure against the North would likely lead to war on the Korean Peninsula, which only means mutual destruction of the two Koreas. War should be prevented in any circumstances.

Q: Many fear that the US may choose to intervene militarily in North Korea, just like it did in Syria, without prior consultation with South Korea. They claim the next president should have something to offer the US in order to dissuade it from the extreme action.

A: The US and South Korea negotiating over a possible pre-emptive strike on North Korea is irrational. The most important task is putting an end to North Korea’s nuclear threat.

If the US tries to ask something in return from South Korea for abandoning the pre-emptive strike, it will not only worsen public sentiment in South Korea, but will spark global criticism, so I believe the Trump administration would not make such a request.

The sanctions imposed by the United States is different from their actions against Syria. Syria lacks military capability to fight back against a pre-emptive attack, but the North does not. In addition, Russia does not agree to the United States’ call to pressure Syria. China, on the other hand, is also taking part in pressuring North Korea, and I believe the nuclear weapons issue with North Korea shall unfold differently from that of Syria.

Q: You have changed your stance on the THAAD missile defense system to support its deployment, saying that it is an agreement between two countries. By this logic, should the agreement made with Japan on the comfort women also be respected?

A: The deal made last December between Korea and Japan on Japan’s wartime sexual enslavement of Korean women is different from THAAD. The victims are still alive. Their opinions should be taken into account in solving the issue with Japan. The December deal should be reconsidered and the Japanese government should admit their liability and offer a sincere apology, along with taking legal responsibility.

Q: You stressed the roles of the private sector and government subsidies in preparing for the fourth industrial revolution. Please elaborate.

A: In the past, the government’s R&D support was results-oriented, and focused on projects with a high probability of success. New and creative research is impossible under such a system. 

The standardized government-led method is unfit for the fourth industrial revolution as we live at a time of increasing societal subdivision, and commercialization of diverse convergent technologies is unpredictable.

Q: How would you encourage companies to participate in your plans voluntarily at a time when companies are avoiding investments due to economic uncertainties?

A: South Korea faces five major challenges -- exports, domestic consumption, unemployment, declining population, and weak diplomacy. The Park Geun-hye administration failed to provide solutions or a vision for the future, instead, they abused corporations as tools for corruption.

It’s understandable that corporations are reluctant under these circumstances. We need leadership that will create jobs and help corporations and the private sector to achieve their potential. The political arena must lay the foundations for companies to freely conduct economic activities and to create jobs.

In the era of the fourth industrial revolution, the government needs to take on the role of supporting corporate and private sectors’ decision and create an environment for fair competition. Then, corporate investment will follow naturally.

Q: How would you lead social change, especially in instruments of power such as the prosecutors’ office?

A: One of the most important reform tasks for the next administration is ending the alliance of government and businesses.

We need overhauls in the prosecution and top conglomerates or chaebol. I see the people’s trust in the prosecution has hit bottom and efforts made inside the group cannot lead to a reform. That is why founding a new government body to watch for corruption in public offices is inevitable.

A major point of prosecution reform is to free the public prosecutor general and the prosecution from other powers. If I am elected, the appointment of public prosecutor general would need consent from the National Assembly.

In addition, I will tighten the control on the prosecution’s right “to not prosecute,” expand the eligible target to apply for a ruling, and introduce jury system to certain cases

Q: What is the “national unity” you speak of and how does it differ from the Democratic Party candidate Moon Jae-in’s ideas?

A. True integration can only be achieved when different opinions are respected, and democratic decisions are accepted. Integration is not an empty slogan.

However, Moon labeled the citizens who oppose him as “forces of evil.” That’s hegemonic politics which creates division.

Politics should not stand in the way of the people when heading into the future. The people will decide who will bring change and reform to create a better future. I will work only for the people and bring unprecedented change to South Korea’s political landscape

Q: Your education reform plan, as drastic as it appears, has earned both positive and negative responses.

A: My education policies aim to reduce the financial burden, while implementing a new education system to foster creativity through education reform. There will not be a widening of the education gap.

First of all, I will change the Korea Scholastic Ability Test to a qualification test, and change the system’s focus on examinations to create a structure in which education is about self-development.

Through my proposal of the “5-5-2 system,” students will go through the process of seeking career paths from high school, and software education will be strengthened in elementary, middle and high school to nurture individuals fit for the fourth industrial revolution.

The government will provide free education to all from kindergarten to high school and the role of universities would expand to cover education from young children to elders.

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