Ahn’s graceful withdrawal

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Ahn’s graceful withdrawal

The unexpected announcement that the doctor-turned-software mogul Ahn Cheol-soo, 49, will not run in the Seoul mayoral by-election in October was a graceful decision befitting his image as a proponent of “clean” politics. His pronouncement has put an end to the typhoon of rumors that circulated about his probable candidacy for Seoul mayor.

It is, of course, too early to say that his venture into politics is over. Ahn did not answer reporters’ questions about whether he will run for president next year, leaving room for the possibility that he may still enter that race. Ahn did, however, make it clear that he endorses 55-year-old lawyer Park Won-soon, executive director of the liberal think tank Hope Institute, praising him as “the person who can perform the job of Seoul mayor better than anyone else.”

In early polling, Ahn, currently the dean of the Graduate School of Convergence Science and Technology at Seoul National University, was the unrivaled frontrunner in the mayoral race, with a 50 percent approval rating. But he courageously withdrew just six days after news of his possible candidacy broke because Park is a “respected civic activist.”

Such a humble decision must not have been easy, even for Ahn. Though he is a taciturn person by nature, Ahn showed great enthusiasm for the mayoral post, saying: “It’s a really meaningful position and I have the confidence that I can do the job successfully.” Ahn’s decision to give a chance to another is courage itself.

In fact, many people worried about Ahn’s potential candidacy after the press reported that he would run for Seoul mayor.

As a successful doctor-turned-businessman-turned-professor, he was the envy of many young people, not because he was rich, but because he was regarded as a role model. Countless young people went to hear him speak.

It is not clear, though, whether his entry into politics is desirable. The Seoul mayoral post is not an administrative job but a ground for political battles to which he would likely have difficulty adjusting. If he should enter politics in order to reform it, Ahn, who has such an impeccable pedigree, could end up getting dragged down into the mud.

But he has already made a great contribution to politics. The public’s overwhelming support for him can be interpreted as distrust of the political establishment while also acting as a wake-up call to politicians. And just as Ahn returned to academia, our politicians should return to their roots of serving the people.
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