Ahn pulls ahead of Park in 2012 poll

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Ahn pulls ahead of Park in 2012 poll


Park Geun-hye, former chairwoman of the ruling Grand National Party, at a National Assembly session yesterday. [NEWSIS]

Park Geun-hye, former chairwoman of the Grand National Party, is no longer the front-runner in the 2012 presidential race.

According to polls taken Tuesday, software mogul Ahn Cheol-soo’s meteoric rise as a potential political force knocked Park from the front-runner plinth she has occupied since 2008.

After the 49-year-old political maverick decided not to run for Seoul mayor next month, conceding to his friend Park Won-soon, speculation turned immediately to the prospect that he might run for president in December 2012. The polls showed that 15 months before the election, Ahn has the most support of any other figure.

Realmeter conducted a nationwide survey on Tuesday shortly after Ahn announced he wouldn’t run for the mayoralty. The poll simulated a two-way presidential race between Ahn and Park, daughter of the late former dictator Park Chung Hee.

Ahn led Park by 2.6 percentage points. According to the poll, Ahn was backed by 43.2 percent of respondents, while Park received 40.6 percent of the votes.

It was the first time that Park was beaten in polls since the Lee Myung-bak administration began in 2008, the polling company said.

“Centrists in their 40s and floating voters headed to Ahn,” said Lee Taek-soo, head of Realmeter. “This is the first challenge to the ‘invincible Park’ argument.”

A breakdown showed that Ahn was largely backed by voters in the Jeolla provinces, Chungcheong, Gyeonggi and Incheon, the traditional strongholds of a liberal candidate, while voters in Gyeongsang, Gangwon and Seoul showed support for Park.

Park’s supporters were older, largely above 50 years old, while Ahn was backed by voters in their 20s to 40s.

Of the conservatives, nearly 72 percent backed Park, while 65.2 percent of the liberals backed Ahn. The centrist voters were split - 49.7 percent supported Ahn while 37.0 percent supported Park.

In a similar poll conducted by Newsis and Mono Research on Tuesday, Ahn was backed by 42.4 percent of respondents while Park was supported by 40.5 percent.

Park, known for extreme prudence in making public remarks, gave a rare reaction to the Ahn phenomenon yesterday. “We should regard this situation as an opportunity for our politics’ new start,” Park said. She did not react to the polls specifically.

On his way to work yesterday morning, Ahn said he had no time to think about a presidential bid.

“That’s absurd,” Ahn said. “I have no time to spare to even think about it.”

He also said his sudden popularity, outpacing Park, “must have been temporary.” Asked if he had given up his political ambition, Ahn said, “It feels like about five years passed now. I had no thought about it and suddenly made headlines in five days.”

Ahn, dean of the Graduate School of Convergence Science and Technology at Seoul National University, was scheduled to have a “Youth Concert” lecture in Gumi, North Gyeongsang, yesterday evening, his first public appearance since declining to run in the Seoul mayoral race.

Ahn and Park Kyung-chul, 47, a stock analyst and surgeon at the Andong New World Clinic, have been giving lectures nationwide since 2009 to discuss current affairs and problems in Korean society, and thousands of Koreans in their 20s and 30s have attended. The lectures are called “Youth Concerts.”

Although the ruling GNP tried to play down the significance of the Ahn phenomenon, Ahn has already declared war by saying he wants to stop the ruling party’s further political expansion in Korean society.

In an interview with CBS yesterday, Won Hee-ryong, a GNP Supreme Council member, expressed his concern about the Ahn phenomenon, calling it “the highest typhoon warning.”

“Whether or not Ahn has political experience, he is walking the political path with his apolitical stance,” said Won.

“I think he will run [in the presidential election],” he continued. “Even if a tree wants to stand alone, others will not leave it alone.”

Won said Ahn’s decision to yield the Seoul mayoral candidacy to his friend Park will create “a tough storm” for the GNP because the public was touched by his perceived selflessness.

Representative Chung Doo-un, head of the Youido Institute, a GNP think tank, was quoted by CBS as saying that the belief of an invincible Park Geun-hye is now broken.

“It is actually fortunate that Ahn fever arrived now rather than later,” Chung said. “We should turn over a new leaf and line up for the battle.”

Park loyalists were also worried. While some of her supporters said there was no need to react hastily because Ahn’s popularity is just a temporary phenomenon, others said they are made uncomfortable by Ahn’s rise.

“Park should work harder,” said Representative Lee Hahn-koo, a Park loyalist.

“She should have more opportunities to communicate with the people.”

By Ser Myo-ja [myoja@joongang.co.kr]

한글 관련 기사 [중앙일보]

취재진 “안철수” 질문 거듭 … 박근혜 “병 걸리셨어요?”

안철수 위협론 민감한 반응

한나라당 박근혜 전 대표가 ‘안철수 현상’에 대해 언급했다. 7일 오전 국회 본회의장 앞에서다. 박 전 대표는 기자들이 “안철수 돌풍을 어떻게 생각하나”라고 묻자 “우리 정치가 새로운 출발을 하는 계기로 삼아야 한다고 생각한다”고 말했다. 박 전 대표가 안철수 서울대 융합과학기술대학원장의 등장에 대해 반응을 보인 것은 처음이다. 앞서 6일 여론조사기관 두 곳이 실시한 대선 주자 여론조사에서 양자 대결 시 안 원장이 박 전 대표보다 앞서는 결과가 나왔다. 하지만 박 전 대표는 평소처럼 미소도 지으면서 여유 있는 반응이었다.

 박 전 대표는 이날 오후엔 ‘민생행보’ 차원에서 인천시 남동구에 있는 고용센터를 찾았다. 박 전 대표는 고용센터에서 구직자들과 ‘취업성공 간담회’를 갖고 “내가 생각하는 복지의 방향은 모든 사람이 소질과 잠재력을 잘 발휘해 자립하고 자아실현을 이루는 것”이라며 “현장에 계신 분들의 목소리를 담아 정책도 더 정교하게 하고, 실제로 도움이 되도록 가다듬을 필요가 있다”고 말했다. 그는 기자들과 만나서도 “(기초생활)탈수급자는 직업을 얻고 싶은데 수급에서 벗어나면 기존에 받던 혜택이 다 없어지는 게 두렵다고 한다”면서 “그에 대한 대책을 잘 마련하고, 탈수급하는 데 대한 인센티브를 강화해야겠다고 생각했다”고 말했다.

 그러나 이 자리에서도 기자들이 안철수 원장보다 뒤진 것으로 나타난 여론조사 결과에 대해 묻자 박 전 대표는 “여기까지 쫓아와서 그런 질문을…”이라고 하면서 웃었다. 그러나 또 질문이 나오자 박 전 대표는 “병 걸리셨어요? 여기서는 정치 얘기는 그만하고 중요한 고용과 복지 얘기를 좀 하죠”라고 말했다.

 친박근혜계는 안 원장이 서울시장 불출마를 선언했는데도 ‘후폭풍’이 계속되는 데 대해 겉으론 “일시적인 인기 투표에 불과하다”(구상찬 의원)며 의미를 축소하는 분위기였다. 그러나 4년 동안 이어온 ‘박근혜 대세론’이 흔들릴 수 있다는 걸 보여주는 여론조사가 발표되자 당혹해 하는 분위기도 감지됐다. 한 친박계 재선 의원은 “변화가 필요하다. 박 전 대표가 젊고 새로운 인물을 주변에 영입해야 할 것”이라고 말했다. 박 전 대표 주변에선 “대선 1년 전에 이런 일이 생겨서 다행이지 내년 대선 막판에 터졌으면 큰일 날 뻔했다”는 말도 나왔다. 안철수 현상이 일종의 ‘예방주사’가 됐다는 얘기다.

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