Explain yourself, Mr. Ahn

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Explain yourself, Mr. Ahn

Ahn Cheol-soo, a software mogul-turned-professor who poses as a potential dark horse in the upcoming presidential race, finds himself in hot water connected with a place incongruous with his clean and upright image - a room salon. It all started with a news magazine called Shindonga (an affiliate of Dong-A Ilbo). In its September edition, it cited an anonymous high-level public official as saying he accompanied Ahn to a drinking parlor.

The quote was quickly picked up and spread on the Internet. “Room salon,” a term that generally implies a negative image of a bar served by female hostesses, has become the top trending term associated with Ahn. Many Korean men visit bars, but Ahn, who still maintains an altar -boy image, came under stricter scrutiny because of his past comments. When he first appeared on a talk show in 2009, he innocently replied he has never been to a singing-drinking parlor. Critics and political rivals went back to the program to attack Ahn as a liar.

The people want to know whether he lied regardless of the insignificance of the topic because, despite the ambiguity, Ahn stands as a formidable presidential candidate. Ahn still maintains he is “deliberating” whether to run, but politicians and voters alike now regard him more as a politician than a dean of Seoul National University. Even the National Election Commission refers to him as potential candidate for registration. According to a legal definition from the Supreme Court, Ahn is “a person whose status, connections, comments and actions suggest he will run in an election.”

Though he may not admit it, the audience sees him at the starting line already. Therefore, he must answer voters’ questions. His spokesman said a request for comment by Shindonga was not worthy of response. He said the piece did not have basic facts and that an article citing an anonymous source is irrelevant. But such an explanation does not satisfy those voters who raved over him because of his honest image - an image rarely associated with politicians.

Ahn may have to explain every little rumor or allegation because of the particularly high ethical standards voters apply to him. If the rumors are baseless, he should strongly react to the negative and defamatory accusations.

This is all part of campaigning. Ahn may want to defer proper answers as far as possible, but the match has started and it is time he play by the rules.

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