Ahn Cheol-soo, head of the minor opposition People’s Party, officially declared his third bid for presidency on Monday, vowing to transform South Korea into a science and technology-oriented state.
Whether Ahn will unify with the main opposition People Power Party candidate will be a major variable in the upcoming election.
Announcing his candidacy at the National Assembly in Seoul, Ahn said, “I will become a president who pursues national growth engines with the power of advanced science and technology.”
“With the drastic reorganization of the government, I will create the position of deputy prime minister for science and technology and transform (the nation) into a science and technology-oriented state,” he said.
He vowed to pave the way forward for technocrats by making professional officials with individual expertise the center of civil service, and to lay the foundation for Korea to become a leader in vaccines, artificial intelligence and semiconductors.
Ahn also promised he would be subject to an interim evaluation in the middle of his term, if elected.
“I will step down if I do not gain more than 50 percent of the public’s trust through a survey method agreed upon by the ruling and opposition parties in the middle of my tenure, or if my party does not become the first party in the 22nd general election,” Ahn said.
He hit out at the current administration, saying, they are “immersed in protecting and fattening only their side through privatization of power,” and blamed them for their incompetency in economic, security and vaccine policies.
Ahn also denounced the presidential candidates from both ruling and opposition parties.
“Ruling party candidates designed a real estate corruption cartel crime to share an astronomically unfair profit and opposition candidates failed to present a vision for a new era,” he said.
This is Ahn’s third attempt at presidency. In his first presidential run in 2012, he resigned to unify with then-Democratic United Party candidate Moon Jae-in. In 2017, he ran as the presidential candidate of the People’s Party and ranked third with 21.31 percent of the votes.
With his announcement, attention is drawn to whether Ahn will unify with the People Power Party candidate who will be selected on Nov. 5.
The People Power Party believes it is essential to unify with Ahn, who has a 9-10 percent approval rating in primary polls. Multiple polls show swing voters account for around 30 percent.
Some candidates have already extended their offers of a partnership.
Yoo Seung-min, a candidate from the People Power Party, said he would propose unifying with Ahn if he becomes the party’s final candidate.
In a radio interview on Monday, Yoo said, “(I am) familiar with Ahn and (we) have a love-hate relationship. But leaving aside all personal affairs, I must do so by telling Ahn, ‘let’s unit for administration change.’”
In the last presidential election, Yoo and Ahn ran as candidates from the Bareun Party and the People’s Party, respectively. The two parties then merged into the Bareunmirae Party in 2018 for the general election, but later split after their failed bid.
Another presidential candidate, Rep. Hong Joon-pyo from People Power Party, said he would forge an ”alliance of value” with Ahn, describing him as the epitome of Korea’s centrist values.
He added, “As in the past DJP (Kim Dae-jung and Kim Jong-pil) solidarity, a common government can be created by uniting power versus power.”
By Shin Ji-hye (firstname.lastname@example.org