Reading between the lines on Ahn
A teaser campaign is an advertisement strategy of revealing a new product bit by bit to retain attention and build interest. The transformation of Ahn Cheol-soo, dean of the Graduate School of Convergence Science and Technology at Seoul National University, into a politician will be recorded as the longest and grandest teaser campaign in Korea .?.?. if he declares his candidacy for president.
I went to Kyobo Bookstore in Gwanghwamun, central Seoul, and found an array of cameramen from newspapers and broadcasters. They were waiting for the arrival of Ahn’s new book, “Ahn Cheol-soo’s Thoughts: The Future Map that We Want of the Republic of Korea.” They want to capture the moment when the latest publication of Ahn is displayed on the bookshelves. The bookstore had already arranged the books about Ahn, including “Ahn Cheol-soo’s Good Anger,” “Ahn Cheol-soo’s Destiny,” “Ahn Cheol-soo Wants to Change the World” and “Ahn Cheol-soo or Moon Jae-in.”
Once the book written by Ahn himself arrives, they would lose the appeal to the readers. They would be lucky to be considered a prophet before the savior, and in the worst case, they would be treated as imitations. Ahn Cheol-soo’s own voice is very powerful.
The first impression of “Ahn Cheol-soo’s Thoughts” was that it was virtually a book of his presidential promises. Although he has not clearly stated his candidacy, he stepped out of his post as the university dean and discussed the society in general. He did not avoid sensitive and controversial topics such as the Cheonan incident, Gangjeong Village, the free trade agreements, conglomerates and nuclear power plants. The book is a pleasant surprise for the voters, as we get to enjoy the feast with various offerings on the menu.
Despite a book infused with political ambition, Ahn cannot completely shake his image as a scholar. Throughout the book, readers can tell that he had studied intensively. He confessed that he lives by advice in Japanese mathematician Heisuke Hironaka’s memoir, “The Joy of Learning.” “When I face a problem, I am determined to invest two, three times more time than other people. That’s the only way to succeed for someone like me, with an ordinary brain.”
With perseverance, Hironaka earned the highest honor in mathematics. Ahn is displaying tenacity not in academia, but in politics. When Hironaka was writing his thesis that would become a landmark study in mathematics, his mentor and Professor Oskar Zariski of Harvard motivated him, “You need strong teeth to bite in.” Ahn can also benefit from the advice.
* The author is an editorial writer of the JoongAng Ilbo.
By Noh Jae-hyun