By Oh Young-jin
Ahn Cheol-soo has launched his presidential bid as a fight between the future and the past; ordinary people and vested interests; change and the status quo.
The 50-year-old Seoul National University professor portrays himself as an agent of change; a backer of the ordinary and a harbinger of the future in a convincing manner.
If it all sounds familiar, it was Barack Obama, the incumbent U.S. President, who portrayed himself in the same way four years ago and won. He has done his best but we all know change is often not something one man alone can achieve.
Obama thrived in an election in a divided nation. Our nation today is deeply divided. Therefore, can Ahn perform Obama magic to overcome what has been an insurmountable challenge? For Obama, it was the barrier of race. To Ahn, his challenge is being an independent, political outsider.
Ending months of tantalizing speculation over his intentions to run for the Dec. 19 presidential election, the computer vaccine maker finally made a full disclosure _ Ahn is now a declared independent candidate.
The wait appeared to be worth every minute, given the hint of hyperbole.
Not necessarily because of the innocence he wanted to project by admitting that he can’t solve every problem _ old politics, global challenges and other pressing issues.
He looked beyond innocence. He looked tired apparently not sleeping several nights, bringing to mind the image of Hamlet pondering, “To be or not to be, that is the question.”
But that tired look didn’t dampen his enthusiasm to try and offer all the right answers to the problems.
Appearing to be beyond innocence doesn’t mean he was pretending to be something that he is not.
Instead it means that he is already emerging as a credible alternative to established politicians because he well understands the characteristics they lack and has displayed them so adroitly.
Of course, this doesn’t mean that he is ahead of his rivals because they also have tricks up their sleeve that Ahn doesn’t.
His 900-word speech illustrated his weak and strong points simultaneously.
In order to show how he stands, he referred to William Gibson citing one of the American novelist’s well-known quotes, “The future is already here _ it’s just not very evenly distributed.”
The effect of using this quote at the end of his speech was to indicate that he wants to introduce change against the political establishment.
“The goodwill of people can be the strongest power and I want to prove this together with you, the people,” he said, trying to enlist the help of as many people as possible in a fight he is trying to make not “he against them” but “us against them.”
He talked about the silent majority who are dissatisfied with politics as usual.
“They say politics should not be like this,” he quoted. “Politics should solve problems but now it creates problems.” He concluded that they wanted a “fresh start.”
Then, he once again took the side of ordinary people by attacking politicians for contradicting themselves. “They say they represent unity but they designate half of the people as the enemy,” he said obviously referring to the current conservative-progressive confrontation.