“Even if North Korea carries out a sixth nuclear test or launches an inter-continental ballistic missile, we should never resort to a pre-emptive strike but focus on reinforcing diplomatic and economic restrictions upon Pyongyang,” Ahn Cheol-soo, who stands second in the polls, told The Korea Herald in an email interview.
“Regardless of the cause, the strike will immediately lead to a war on the Korean Peninsula and the destruction of the entire people.”
|People’s Party candidate Ahn Cheol-soo (Yonhap)|
The candidate also strongly dismissed the notion, shared by some politicians here, that Seoul should “negotiate” Washington out of an increasingly-feared military intervention scenario.
“The idea of the US and South Korea negotiating over a possible pre-emptive strike on North Korea is irrational,” Ahn said.
“If the US tries to ask something in return from South Korea for abandoning the military action, it will cause a backlash not only from within Korea but also from international society, so I believe the Trump administration would not make such a request.”
According to Ahn, taking aggressive responses to the North’s provocations has done little over past years to promote inter-Korean peace.
Still, South Korea should take due defensive measures, including an advanced US anti-missile system to be deployed here, against plausible provocations from the belligerent communist state, he stressed.
Ahn’s approval of the deployment of the US-led Terminal High Altitude Area Defense contradicts that of his party, whose official stance is to oppose the installment.
The candidate’s “compromising” set of national security policies was deemed an effort to find middle ground between liberal Moon Jae-in and other conservative rivals.
As for social sectors, the centrist-liberal politician took a more liberal bend, vowing to reform the education system and to expand state-run childcare.
The former computer anti-virus software developer and IT venture chief placed particular focus on his educational reform, seeking to revise the current “6-3-3” system of six years of primary school, three years of middle school and three years of high school to a “5-5-2” system. The purpose of the change is to allow students to spend more time on basic education and spend the last two years on job aptitude tests and talent development.
“The core of the plan is not just to restructure the school grade system but to help students break out of the conventional frame and develop their talent in a creative way,” he said.
Ahn also reiterated his plan to build more state-run kindergartens and expand free preschool education. He had previously come under fire saying that he would place a restriction on the establishment of new kindergartens and promote the independent operation of current private ones.
Underlining his key policies, the No. 2 candidate pledged to ignore superficial factors such as approval ratings and attacks from rival camps.
“Quite contrary to the general belief, I have faith in the collective intelligence of the people,” he said.
“So it is to them that I shall deliver my political vision, policies and leadership, not to political parties or my rival candidates.”
He especially blamed the front-runner rival Moon and his aides for mudslinging campaigns.
Moon always speaks of (the elimination of) vested rights and power monopoly, but it is such antagonistic way of thinking which further deepens social divides and discriminates those who do not agree with him,” Ahn said.
The biggest problem, in Ahn’s eyes, is that the political circles are still caught up in a chronic conservative-progressive battle, a black-and-white mindset that no longer meets the public’s needs.
“Having gone through the extensive political turbulence of expelling a sitting president for corruption, the public are now ready to face a better future, but it is the politicians who are holding back the nation’s progress by engaging in an ideological brawl,” he said.
Candidates and parties should remember that no matter who wins in the upcoming race, it will be inevitable that they join hands across the aisle, according to Ahn.
“The People’s Party shall work together with various groups, not because it only holds 38 out of the 300 parliamentary seats, but because it is our vision to break free from the conventional political power monopoly.”
By Bae Hyun-jung (firstname.lastname@example.org)