It was a deft move by the ruling Saenuri Party’s presidential candidate Park Geun-hye.
The appointment of former Supreme Court justice Ahn Dae-hee on Monday as the chairman of the Saenuri’s political reform committee showed, to its maximum, the frontrunner’s determination on political reform.
Thrown off balance, the main opposition Democratic United Party strongly criticized the designation, but with little grounds to back their condemnation.
Dubbed “the people’s prosecutor” for his full-fledged crackdown on political irregularities, Ahn, with a couple of fan clubs under his belt, was said to be one of the most sought-after figures by the parties in their presidential campaign lineups.
But Park was the most insistent of all, continuously persuading him personally by arranging meetings and making telephone calls since early July, until he caved in from his earlier resolve to remain politically neutral.
“In my latest meeting with Park last Friday, I could sense her sincere love for the country and I began to trust that she will stick by what she says,” Ahn said at a press conference, countering the opposition’s attack that he was turning political just 48 days after his resignation.
Ahn was a prosecutor for 29 years until he was named Supreme Court justice in 2006 by late President Roh Moo-hyun.
In August 2003, Ahn led the all-out clampdown on political funds upon which the then-Grand National Party was hit the hardest. Ironically, the probe was Park’s first opportunity to prove her leadership by eventually earning the nickname “Election Queen” after repeated election wins.
Upon his resignation, Ahn had told his junior prosecutors: “Live by principles even if heaven should fall.” “Principle” is what Park also swears by.
It remains to be seen whether Ahn, who pledged upon his appointment as chairman to “leave Saenuri whenever necessary,” will prove the opposition wrong on whether principles and politics can actually coexist.
By Lee Joo-hee (email@example.com