By Kang Hyun-kyung
Seoul National University (SNU) professor Ahn Cheol-soo can’t seem to make up his mind. Everyone assumes he will join the presidential race as he steps up efforts to reach out to voters but nothing is official, yet.
His indecisiveness, no matter if it is a carefully designed move, has caused some impatient bloggers to become cynical towards the information technology mogul.
A blogger identified as rhkr7051 tweeted that unlike others, professor Ahn is being paid although he doesn’t teach at the university. “No students signed up for his class in the second semester. This shows that SNU students know him better than the general public that has few opportunities to get to know him.”
Another blogger, antilefter, said he wondered how Ahn could have remembered what happened 14 years ago so accurately. “He said he didn’t drink a drop of alcohol at a room salon where he went a long time ago. But employees who have worked for him say he drinks a lot. I am wondering how come he has such a vivid memory of a trivial thing that occurred more than a decade ago?”
Ahn is popular because he is thought to be different from politicians who are often portrayed as people who will do anything to get elected.
Young voters prefer the founder of the computer anti-virus software provider AhnLab over people in the current political circle because of his trailblazer sprit, successful career as a start-up business owner and his willingness to give a helping hand to those in need. These are elements that many politicians are said to be lacking.
But his recent deeds leave room for suspicion that he might be no different. Rather, he may be worse in some aspects.
Ahn woos voters without declaring a presidential bid. Whenever reporters ask him when he will announce his decision, the dean of SNU Graduate School of Convergence Science and Technology just smiles and says, “You will see shortly.”
He appears to be hedging his bets against defeat in the presidential election. Or he may not be making a decision about how he will become involved in the race as pundits speculate that he may just opt to be a high-profile supporter of a standard bearer of the opposition camp.
For successful entrepreneurs like Ahn, joining the presidential race is undoubtedly a high-stakes poker game because he could lose everything if he doesn’t win. His achievements in the information technology industry will be forgotten, wealth will be significantly decreased and fame will probably be tarnished.
Considering the cruel nature of the presidential election, his continuing indecision is understandable.
But there is one thing that it appears he doesn’t know about the race. Voters take it for granted that those gearing up for the top job are tough and determined and ready to ride tough passages until the election.
Presidential hopefuls, including ruling Saenuri Party candidate Park Geun-hye and the four contenders in the main opposition Democratic United Party, know the consequences if their bids fail.
Despite this, they made clear their intentions to run clear before campaigning.
Contenders do this, not because they have nothing to lose, but because they have an exact understanding of the nature of the presidential race. The stakes are high for everybody. This is why campaign strategists call the election “an all-or-nothing game.”
Having noted that, how can we confidently say that Ahn would be an accountable leader if elected, if he doesn’t live up to the unwritten rules that other contenders abide by?