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Ahn woos chief prosecutor who rose to presidential hopeful in polls

Ahn Cheol-soo, leader of the People’s Party (Yonhap)
Ahn Cheol-soo, leader of the People’s Party (Yonhap)
A minor opposition party leader has wooed the prosecutor general who suddenly rose to presidential hopeful in polls thanks to his defiance against the justice minister.

Chief prosecutor Yoon Seok-youl has been at odds with Justice Minister Choo Mi-ae over investigative command authority in a number of cases including a high-profile financial scandal, and openly expressed his disagreement during a televised parliamentary audit last month.

Choo upped the ante on Wednesday by calling for Yoon’s resignation, accusing him of abandoning the duty of political neutrality as chief prosecutor.

In surveys on presidential hopefuls since Wednesday, Yoon, who has never declared political ambitions but recently said he will think about how to serve Korean society after his term ends in July, beat all political heavyweights.

Ahn Cheol-soo, leader of the People’s Party, said on Thursday it would greatly help the opposition if Yoon joins the new “innovation platform” of the opposition that Ahn has proposed.

Mentioning that Yoon will have to decide himself whether to enter politics, Ahn said in a lecture hosted by a group of politicians that Koreans were expecting great things from Yoon, and the expectations were “being pooled together.”

Ahn, a doctor-turned-venture entrepreneur who himself entered politics after becoming popular in polls and a lot of wooing from politicians, suggested last year that the entire opposition should reorganize themselves to create a new “innovation platform.”

Ahn denied speculation that he may be seeking to launch a new party, saying that he has never talked about it.

“I think there are a number of ways the opposition can cooperate and band together. There is a wide spectrum of options, from forming the loosest kind of solidarity to creating a new party. I used the word ‘platform’ to refer to all of that,” Ahn said.

Such platform will not be just for the by-elections in April next year, but also looking forward to the presidential election slated for March 2022, Ahn added.

He also proposed a debate among the entire opposition as the first step of the “platform.”

“Anyone who wants a change of government should take part (in the debate) to share their innovative ideas, visions and blueprints, and find a common denominator (with others) to find a way to come to power,” Ahn said.

“We must join hands not just with centrists but also with anyone who wants a change of government including progressives who want reasonable reforms and recovery of democracy.”

Ahn went on to criticize the Moon Jae-in administration for failing to effectively deal with an “economic crisis,” especially in its real estate policy.

He blamed the Moon administration for the soaring housing costs in “jeonse” contracts, Korea’s unique form of rental agreement in which tenants pay a refundable lump sum deposit in lieu of monthly rent.

“Even if you wrack your brains to intentionally raise the jeonse prices, the prices can’t go up so high,” Ahn said.

“Of the (country’s) 2 percent economic growth last year, 1.5 percent was due to the (government’s) financial spending. Since last year, when we had no COVID-19, the economy was already suffering from a serious underlying disease.”

The Moon administration has unveiled property measures 23 times, but the jeonse prices in Seoul have gone up after it revised the housing lease protection laws.

“Waiting for their 24th policy, I am really worried. Two or three measures would have been effective enough had it been a good policy. The fact that they did it 23 times on a single sector proves their policy failure,” Ahn said.

By Kim So-hyun (