By Park Si-soo
Ahn Cheol-soo has returned to the public eye after just over a month. The 50-year-old professor at Seoul National University (SNU) is widely viewed as a potential dark horse in the presidential race in December and has bolstered his support base with an enigmatic approach to the public.
“I could join politics if I could be used to contribute to the development of society,” Ahn said during a lecture at SNU, Tuesday, which was open to the media, in response to a question raised from the floor about whether he would vie for the presidency.
As students cheered, he said, “It’s too early to talk about the presidential poll. Nobody has declared a bid for it yet.”
He made it clear that even if he enters politics, he will not be swayed by existing political forces sharply divided by a “right and left” ideology.
“My thought and code of conduct runs counter to making a decision under the influence of political forces, which could cause damage to public interest,” he said. “If I join politics, I will put priority on the value of public interest without relying on specific political group.”
His comments provided a glimpse into the situation facing Ahn.
With prevailing rumors about his debut in politics in place, Ahn left for the U.S. in early January. He met Microsoft founder Bill Gates and other business leaders there and discussed a plan to establish his own charity foundation.
It’s unknown what his discussions in the U.S. were about. But in an interview upon arrival in Seoul, Ahn expressed his wish to keep his distance from politics, saying, “I don’t think I should enter politics.”
Since then he has kept silent over a barrage of questions about his political ambitions.
“Some say I’m whimsical,” he said in the lecture. “If I declare my political ambitions, I will become a target of political offenses, while if I openly withdraw, the country’s two major parties will stop reforming themselves.”
“My role at the moment is,” he said, “standing at the current position and galvanizing the two to push forward their reform drive.”
Regarding the comments, analysts said Ahn is now taking a wait-and-see attitude without a clear direction about his future.
Despite his denial, rumors have it that he has formed his own camp in preparation for the presidential election.