Who is he?
Ahn Cheol-soo is an independent liberal running for the December 2012 presidential elections in South Korea. He is also a physician, professor, entrepreneur, computer programmer and philanthropist. Born in Busan, Ahn earned his M.D., M.S. and Ph.D. in physiology from Seoul National University. He researched computer antivirus software programs while working at Seoul National University Hospital and ultimately resigned from his medical duties to focus on software development.
In 1995, Ahn founded AhnLab, Inc., a highly successful antivirus software company, and distributed Vaccine 3 (V3) across South Korea for free, an effort which garnered significant acclaim among the Korean business community. Ahn then went abroad to study in the United States, earning a M.S. in engineering from the University Pennsylvania and an MBA from the Wharton School of Business. Since 2011, he has been serving as the dean of the Graduate School of Convergence Science and Technology at Seoul National University.
Why has he been in the news?
On September 19, 2012, Ahn officially announced his presidential bid, ending months of public speculation about a possible challenge to the country’s political status quo. His declaration marked a major turning point in the race for the Blue House, making it a three-way competition among Park Geun-hye, Moon Jae-in and Ahn.
Despite the high hopes for a single liberal candidate against the conservative Park among the Korean liberals, the possibility of collaboration between Ahn and Moon remains low as Ahn has been dismissing the DUP’s repeated suggestions that he should join the party and enter the two-way race for a single candidacy. Meanwhile, a series of scandals emerged, including tax-dodging for a real estate contract by Ahn’s wife. However, the polls have remained steady, placing Ahn second after Park in a three-way race.
What can we expect from him?
Ahn’s status as a political outsider has won him popular support among the younger generations and urban workers of South Korea – the swing voters who could give him a victory in December. At the same time, however, his lack of political experience has cast doubts on his leadership and ability to manage potential crises.
Ahn’s stated views include a tough line against North Korea, denuclearization of the Korean peninsula and resumption of the six-party talks. Ahn also favors a balanced approach towards chaebols, suggesting a ‘corporate group reform policy’ to ensure that they remain competitive but minimize their defects and abuses. Furthermore, he is expected to push for policies that encourage the further development of Information Technology (IT).