[Viewpoint] Where is Ahn’s voice?

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[Viewpoint] Where is Ahn’s voice?

Kim Dae-jung looked very haggard in 1993. He had just come back from England, six months after his third presidential defeat. After exchanging simple greetings, I brought up the topic of his return to politics. Although it was a sensitive subject, I could not give up my professional duty as a journalist.

After returning from England, Kim published an autobiography at the end of the year. Titled “For the New Beginning,” the book portrayed a friendly, easy-to-approach image of Kim. Everyone knew what the “new beginning” was. But whether Kim would make a political comeback or not was an important news item for nearly two years after he returned.

A journalist has to ask about the secrets that everyone wants to know, but no one wants to talk about. Recent reports about Ahn Cheol-soo, the dean of the Graduate School of Convergence Science and Technology at Seoul National University, remind me of my encounter with Kim Dae-jung.

The political steps of Ahn are also very careful. During a press conference to announce the launch of his charity foundation, Ahn asked reporters to not ask him about politics. Even when they did, he just smiled.

Maybe Ahn’s judgment is right. The Venerable Beopryun described Ahn as “someone who cannot participate in politics in the existing political leadership,” and he could actually collapse if he does so.

He’s already proven his explosive popularity in the Seoul mayoral by-election, and the popularity stays high although he makes very few statements. There is no reason for him to make an early move.

It is therefore possible to criticize those who demand Ahn announce his entrance into the political scene. The problem is that Ahn’s steps appear a product of too much political engineering.

He could be seen as trying to promote his image while staying tight-lipped about his political position with a possible intention to go into the election without giving opponents a chance to criticize him. Ahn’s silence is different from that of Kim’s, whose political position was already well known.

Ahn’s close friend, Park Gyeong-cheol, a doctor-turned-investor, said he would become the flagpole if Ahn became the flag. The two have probably had enough discussions already to build political trust. But winning a presidential election and running a country are not two-person jobs.

Unless Ahn wants to be an actor and be carried on someone’s back, he must make public his political visions. Only then will he have true supporters. He must not just join hands with those who are only chasing after the high possibility of winning the next presidency, regardless of political views.

While Ahn considered his next move, the political landscape began changing. Support for Moon Jae-in, a senior adviser of the Democratic United Party, is skyrocketing.

In the latest Realmeter survey, his popularity was 0.5 percentage points higher than that of Park Geun-hye, the interim head of the Saenuri Party. In some polls, Moon’s popularity was higher than that of Ahn’s. His fund-raising activities have also been very successful.

It’s been a while since Park has been projected to lose without Ahn in the race. Some said Ahn should work as the pacemaker like he did in the Seoul mayoral by-election. Others are predicting that Ahn will join the ruling party and compete against Park in the primary. The situation is exactly what Ven. Beopryun had worried about. Ahn’s passive, uncertain identity has created the current situation.

An anecdote about the way Ahn learned how to play the game “go” is revealing. During his second year in a premedical program, Ahn read 50 books on the game before he began playing it. Because he had such a solid foundation, he was able to reach the first or second level as an amateur player within only one year.

He is following these steps again for his political participation. He is reportedly receiving special tutoring from experts.

But politics is different from “go.” It’s also different from corporate management. Politics needs a group that shares a vision and is created through the process of communicating with other.

President Lee Myung-bak, a successful CEO, faced criticism for his inability to effectively communicate, and Ahn seriously needs to think about the reasons why.

Ven. Beopryun evaluated Ahn as someone who thinks, “Will I be able to do it well and happily?” rather than thinking that he must sacrifice himself for the people. Instead of thinking about who he can be, Ahn appears to be more interested in what he can do when he reaches the position. That’s the precise charm of Ahn.

But in politics, doing something is not about acting after reading 50 books.

Politics is about the process of making public his or her view on an important national issue, such as the Korea-U.S. free trade agreement. It is about getting his or her political stance verified and winning support.

If Ahn continues to remain silent about matters of grave importance, he could be misunderstood for trying to not suffer any damage.

Politics is not something that the president alone can decide.

by Kim Jin-kook

* The author is the chief editorial writer of the JoongAng Ilbo.
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