[Newsmaker] Ahn hints at running for Seoul Mayor in 2018

By Yeo Jun-suk
  • Published : Aug 16, 2017 - 16:29
  • Updated : Aug 16, 2017 - 17:49
Following his crushing defeat for the People’s Party at presidential polls in May, Ahn Cheol-soo has been scrambling to find ways to bring back the popularity that had catapulted the former business tycoon to the political arena.

But such efforts barley got off to a start, with some of Ahn’s aides being indicated for engaging in an illegal smear campaign during the presidential election and the party’s approval ratings plummeting to a record low since its establishment in 2016.

Alarmed by the fear that his party would meet a similar fate in the upcoming 2018 provincial election, there is an idea being floated that draws the attention of Ahn struggling to salvage his six-year-old political career: Running for mayor of Seoul city.

“I am open to any possibilities,” Ahn said when asked about whether he would join the race to elect his party’s candidate for Seoul Mayor during a radio interview with CBS on Wednesday, “If our party regains public trust and completes preparations for the election, then I can decide what would be my best role.”

Rep. Ahn Cheol-soo. Yonhap

The idea of putting Ahn on a ticket for a Seoul mayorship came as his party gears up to elect a new leader on Aug. 27 to overhaul the scandal-ridden party. Joining the race are Reps. Chun Jung-bae, Chung Dong-young, Lee Un-ju and Ahn.

During a televised debate among the candidates last week, Chun floated the idea to Ahn for the first place, saying if Ahn drops his bid for a party leader, he would support Ahn for Seoul Mayor. Ahn did not directly respond to the request.

Some party officials suggested that Ahn might have a shot at becoming the next Seoul Mayor, suggesting that the entrepreneur-turned-businessman still enjoys a higher approval rating among Seoul voters than those in other regions.

In the May presidential election, Ahn attracted more votes in Seoul than Hong Jun-pyo, a presidential candidate of conservative Liberty Party of Korea who beat Ahn in nationwide polls to become a runner-up of the snap election.

Among Seoul voters, Ahn’s secured 22.7 percent of the votes, about two percentage points higher than Hong. In a national wide poll, however, Hong beat Ahn by a slight margin, with Hong attracting 23.3 percent of the votes and Ahn winning 21.8 percent.

But some bigwigs from the People’s Party was still skeptical of Ahn’s prospect of winning the election, claiming that he would not appeal to Seoul voters any more.

“During the previous election, Ahn was crushed by (then-presidential candidate) Moon Jae-in, even in his own constituency. It’s quite a rare case…. I don’t think he would exercise proper leadership,” said Rep. Lee Sang-don.

The race for Seoul mayorship is expected to rile political parties, with ruling and opposition bigwigs mulling their candidacy for the seat. Among them are ruling Democratic Party’s leader Rep. Choo Mi-ae, its former whip Rep. Woo Sang-ho as well as current Seoul Mayor Park Won-soon. 

In 2011, Ahn, who had yet to formally begin his political career, was widely considered a major contender but chose to endorse Park. After winning the 2011 race, Park was re-elected in 2014. Park has yet to declare his third bid for the post.  

By Yeo Jun-suk (