A victory lap too soonI recently finished “Ahn Cheol-soo’s Thoughts.” In the best-selling book, the software mogul-turned-professor expands on current issues put forward by a journalism professor who posed as his interviewer. A candidate usually talks to the press when he wants to be interviewed on his views. Ahn chose his single interviewer and spoke his mind from his office at Seoul National University. It was a very controlled interview. The interviewer was, unsurprisingly, charmed by Ahn. She perceived a “salient fortitude and resilience underneath his composed appearance.” He demonstrated an “extraordinary” will and desire to lead our society in a better direction. And he presented his thoughts and solutions to various questions with seeming competence and conviction.
Almost at the same time the book hit bookstores, Ahn appeared on a talk show hosted by TV entertainers and more or less repeated the thoughts in his book with a bit more color and humor. A public figure is free to appear on any TV program. We may have wished for more from a figure who happens to be a potential presidential candidate who is highly popular among the critical group of voters under the age of 50. The program, “Healing Camp,” is famous for featuring highprofile figures who talk candidly about their problems and dreams. It’s supposed to have a cathartic effect for the audience. Ahn’s episode was fun and appealing. The show did not deal with the weighty questions, or have the kind of hard rebuttals, a political debate would have. There’s no point in blaming Ahn for choosing easy and comfortable media platforms to present himself favorably to the broader public. And, although he lacks political experience, this doesn’t mean he is poor at political strategy. What’s pitiful is that newspapers and broadcasters hype his interviews without going through them in detail with the kind of investigative perspective expected of them. The press has lost its journalistic zeal.
A spiring presidential candidates from both the ruling and opposition campshave been touring the nation. They have been shouting to the wind what kind of presidents they wish to be. But they hardly get any attention because none get the kind of attention Ahn commands. The head of the main opposition party is undermining his own party and its candidates. He implies that his party will make the winner of its primary contest against Ahn to come up with the best person to be opposition candidate. All these arrangements are made and publicized even as Ahn remains mum as to whether he will run in the presidential election.
What point is there of conducting a primary if the winning candidate is forced to compete with an outsider to claim a candidacy? What kind of political party does that? Even if a party leader does not have complete confidence in his candidates, it is shameful to admit the party may not come up with the best candidate. By doing so, he is disgracing himself and ridiculing the party system. If he wants Ahn as a candidate so desperately, he should try to recruit him before his primary takes place. Our parties no longer have any shame and are slowly driving themselves into extinction.