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Ahn stocks hit record high on bets he could be PM

Ahn Cheol-soo, chief of the transition committee for President-elect Yoon Suk-yeol. (Yonhap) 
Ahn Cheol-soo, chief of the transition committee for President-elect Yoon Suk-yeol. (Yonhap) 
Ahnlab founder Ahn Cheol-soo, the leader of the transition committee for President-elect Yoon Suk-yeol, saw his shares shoot up to a record high in 10 years on Wednesday on market expectations that he could be the prime minister when Yoon is sworn in on May 10.

The stocks closed at 175,800 won ($144.76) Wednesday, breaking the previous intraday high of 167,200 won in January 2012. The net worth of the software mogul-turned-politician soared to 327 billion won. Ahn has an 18 percent stake in the company, which has provided network security solutions since 1995.

The shares jumped 72 percent in value from Friday, when the transition committee officially began work. Foreigners have led the buying spree, with JP Morgan Securities taking part in the purchase. The investment bank is now the third-largest shareholder after Ahn and his foundation.

Ahn, who quit the presidential race after throwing his support behind Yoon, has said he would keep focusing on his committee work in response to reports that he could take the No. 2 job under Yoon. After the candidacy merger, Yoon said he would work closely with Ahn when he becomes president.

If Ahn becomes the prime minister, he would have to name an independent trustee to handle his stocks, as required by law to avoid conflicts of interest. Ahn, who would be banned from influencing the trustee, could be left more vulnerable to hostile takeovers.

But such a scenario is unlikely, because Ahn was just not as interested in the key role as many said he was, according to local reports quoting a source with knowledge of the matter.

“Aside the trustee issue, Ahn is just dedicated to seeing the Yoon government take off without a hitch,” the source said, adding if Ahn were to take on the job, it would be Yoon’s call and not that of his aides. He was referring to Yoon’s closest aides openly dismissing the possibility based on a lack of precedent.

“Jumping to prime minister after leading the transition committee? It’s unprecedented,” said Kwon Seong-dong, a four-term lawmaker, who publicly vowed that he would not take up any key roles under the Yoon government.

Ahn’s attempt to lead Yoon’s Cabinet would be overreaching, Kwon said.

By Choi Si-young (siyoungchoi@heraldcorp.com)
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