Wednesday September 19, 2012
Software mogul enters S. Korea presidential race
SEOUL: Popular software mogul Ahn Cheol-Soo declared his candidacy Wednesday for South Korea's presidential election, setting up a three-way race that offers a number of potentially game-changing permutations.
"The people have expressed their desire to see reform in politics," Ahn told a highly-anticipated press conference at the Salvation Army building in the capital, Seoul.
"Now, I will run in the presidential election," the 50-year-old said, ending a year of intense speculation.
Ahn's entry into the race has the potential to split the liberal vote between himself and Moon Jae-In - the chosen candidate of the leftist opposition Democratic United Party (DUP).
Analysts say that scenario would effectively hand the election to the ruling conservative New Frontier Party candidate, Park Geun-Hye, the daughter of South Korea's former military ruler Park Chung-Hee.
The opposition had been hoping Ahn would reach an arrangement with Moon, with one of them stepping aside to unify their support behind a sole candidate.
However, in his announcement address, Ahn appeared to rule out any immediate accommodation with the DUP.
"It is not proper to talk about a unified candidate right now," he said.
In a book entitled "Ahn Cheol-Soo's Thoughts" - published in June and seen by some as a presidential manifesto - Ahn advocated Swedish-style social welfare and criticised outgoing President Lee Myung-Bak's hardline policy towards North Korea.
"The policy that isolates the North and assumes its imminent collapse only intensified cross-border tension and damaged peace on the peninsula," he said in the book.
In his public appearances, he has repeatedly attacked predatory capitalism and called for the overhaul of an economy dominated by a few powerful conglomerates, known as "chaebols".
An unlikely political star admired by young liberal voters but dismissed by critics as an unseasoned idealist, Ahn is best known for building the South's first anti-virus software firm after a glittering career in medicine.
He showed his political clout in October when his support helped an independent civic activist Park Won-Soon win election as mayor of Seoul - a race many had wanted Ahn to enter himself.
There has been criticism of Ahn's long delay in formally declaring his candidacy with some seeing a grandstanding element in his encouragement of the "will he-won't he" speculation.
There have also been suggestions that his announcement - coming just days after Moon wrapped up the DUP nomination on Sunday - had been timed to steal the media spotlight from his fellow liberal.
Ahn stood down as CEO of his AhnLan software firm in 2005 - though he remains board chairman - to pursue an academic career.
He is currently dean at the School of Convergence Science and Technology in Seoul National University. - AFP