Impact Player: Ahn Cheol-soo
April 25, 2017Who is he?
Ahn Cheol-soo is the presidential nominee of the People’s Party (PP) in South Korea’s May 9, 2017 presidential election.
Since 2012, Ahn has served the National Assembly of the Republic of Korea as lawmaker. He is widely credited for launching the first three-party system in the 21st century South Korea’s National Assembly, being the founding member of the People’s Party established in January 2016. The People’s Party is currently South Korea’s third biggest political party and has worked as the progressive anti-establishment centrist force.
Touted as a possible candidate at the 2006 and 2011 Seoul mayoral elections, Ahn Cheol-soo officially made his first mark in the political scene in September 2012 announcing his candidacy in the presidential election as an independent. Yet, due to speculations that Ahn’s participation could split the opposition vote confronting the Saenuri Party, Ahn decided to drop out of the 2012 race endorsing Moon Jae-in. As a lawmaker at the National Assembly, Ahn has acquired experience and insight into the depths of Korean politics, sedately preparing his next run for South Korea’s 19th presidential election.
Prior to his political career Ahn was a physician, educator, computer programmer and software entrepreneur. From 1991 to 1994 Ahn served the ROK Army as a medical officer. Upon leaving the military he founded AhnLab Inc. in 1995, South Korea’s first and biggest anti-virus software company. Since then Ahn held numerous positions of leadership in the domestic software industry. He was appointed president of the Software Venture Association (1998) and the Korea Information Security Industry Association (2005). He also served the Lee Myung-bak administration as an advisory member of the Presidential Council on Future and Vision (2008) and the Presidential Council on Information Society (2009). Ahn Cheol-soo taught as chair and professor at the Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology (KAIST) from 2008 to 2011. He worked as dean of Seoul National University Graduate School of Convergence Science and Technology from June 2011 until September 2012.
Ahn Cheol-soo obtained a medical degree from Seoul National University in 1986 where he also pursued his graduate studies in Physiology (M.S. 1988; Ph.D., 1991). He received an executive Master’s degree in Technology Management from the Wharton School of Business at the University of Pennsylvania in 1997.
Photo credit: 철수 안/Flickr
Why has he been in the news?
With his 7th consecutive landslide victory in the final April 4th in-party contest (winning 85.37% votes), Ahn Cheol-soo is the People’s Party’s most popular presidential candidate and nominee. His rapidly rising prominence in the polls has caught the attention of the political audience recently. While a Realmeter poll published in April 3rd had shown that Moon held a solid 20% lead over Ahn in a five-candidate race, April 9th survey by the Yonhap News and public broadcaster KBS showed that Ahn would overtake Moon by 13% in a two-candidate race and by 4% in a five-candidate race. Ahn Cheol-soo will continue his 22-day long presidential campaign – set by the National Election Commission (NEC) – leading up to election day, and is participating in three NEC debates on April 23, April 28, and May 2.
What can we expect from him?
Ahn’s vision for South Korea is to create a “welfare state”, a “just state”, and, in terms of foreign policy, a “harmonious state.” “Instead of trying to balance foreign relations” Ahn promotes a harmonious foreign policy. However, as far as national security is concerned, Ahn takes a tougher approach. Amid escalating missile threats from North Korea, Ahn acknowledged the significance of the deployment of THAAD (Terminal High Altitude Area Defense), and strongly advocated the U.S.-ROK alliance in solving the North Korean problem. He announced that he would gradually increase the defense budget to 3% of the GDP (Gross Domestic Product) but also showed willingness in putting “greater efforts to convince China”, and thus resume multilateral talks on North Korea’s nuclear program. Moreover, Ahn has said South Korea should comply with international efforts in sanctioning North Korea while keeping the doors open to dialogue – “the purpose of sanctions is to bring North Korea to the negotiating table under favorable conditions for South Korea.”
Photo credit: Jeon Heon-Kyun-Pool/Getty Images