By Kang Hyun-kyung
Ahn Cheol-soo, the Seoul National University professor, was under fire Tuesday for allegedly exaggerating the period of time he lived in rented accommodation.
Ahn’s motives were not clear. Analysts, meanwhile, speculate that he might have wanted to appeal to low-income families with his version of a rise from humble origins.
In the book, titled “Ahn Cheol-soo’s Thoughts” released in July, Ahn stated that he knows of the plight facing people who don’t have their own home better than anyone else. “I lived without my own home for a long time, so I know exactly how tenants feel,” he said in the book.
Housing contracts usually last for two years. Tenants have to vacate their place unless landlords agree to renew their contract. Landlords prefer a new contract in order to raise the rent and tenants who cannot afford the increase need to find a new place to live.
Ahn’s remarks, however, turned out to be false. He purchased an apartment in Seoul in 1988, the year he was married as a graduate school student. One year later he moved into it.
In reality he had lived in a contract-based housing as a tenant for less than a year and what he said in his book was exaggerated.
Suspicions also arise concerning his tax records, too. He purchased the apartment with financial help from his parents and this would have required him to pay taxes.
Asking for anonymity, a publicist for Ahn said he would check if the allegation was true and probably needed time because the contract was made several decades ago.
Coupled with the reports that he had joined the petition calling for leniency on behalf of a corrupt businessman who was serving a jail term for audit fraud in 2005, the fresh allegation is likely to deal another blow to Ahn. He was portrayed as an ethical start-up businessman until these charges surfaced.
Bloggers reacted with mixed reactions to Ahn’s exaggeration regarding his home.
An Internet user indentified as Jonghopark966 tweeted that he was suspicious of Ahn’s motives for remaining indecisive about his presidential ambitions. “He has yet to make his decision on the presidential bid not because he is indecisive, but probably because he has a lot to hide.”
But another blogger raised suspicions of a media conspiracy on the recent surge of negative coverage of Ahn. An Internet user, jejsusjela, said the conservative media strives to find faults with Ahn and pounces on any chance for negative coverage of the founder of the computer virus vaccine provider AhnLab.
안철수 서울대 교수가 지난 7월 출간한 “안철수의 생각”에서 “오랫동안 전세살이를 해봐서 집 없는 설움을 잘 안다”고 밝힌 것과는 달리, 집 없이 산 기간이 1년이 채 안 돼 거짓말이 아니냐는 논란이 불거졌다.
이와 관련, 정치 평론가들은 “안교수가 자신 역시 낮은 계층에서 출세했다는 점을 통해 저소득 계층에게 지지를 호소했다”고 추측했다.
안철수 교수는 결혼 첫 해인 지난 1988년 본인 명의로 서울 사당동의 한 아파트를 구입해 1년 뒤 입주한 것으로 알려졌다.
또한 당시 대학생 신분이던 안철수 교수가 부모의 도움을 받은 뒤 증여세를 냈는지 여부도 논란이 되고 있다.
안 교수 측은 “당시 부모로부터 도움을 받았지만 구체적인 액수와 증여세 지급 여부는 오래 전 일이기 때문에 시간이 더 필요하다”고 밝혔다.
한편, 한 누리꾼은 “안철수 교수가 대통령 선거 출마를 아직 결정하지 않은 이유는 그가 우유부단해서가 아니라, 많은 것들을 숨기고 있기 때문”이라고 비판했다.
하지만 안철수 교수를 지지하는 다른 누리꾼은 “안교수에 대한 부정적인 보도가 급증하는 것은 보수 언론의 음모”라고 댓글을 남겼다.