Courage to face closeted skeletons

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Courage to face closeted skeletons

Independent presidential candidate Ahn Cheol-soo has fared poorly in addressing various allegations about his personal and professional life, and voters’ growing impatience is being reflected in his waning popularity in recent polls. He has failed to provide clear explanations to quell the growing suspicions, when he should have acted aggressively to cement his position after he skipped the primary races.

Ahn is suspected to have caused losses to his antivirus software company AhnLab by selling bond warrants in the company at below-market prices. His wife also stands accused of being hired as a permanent professor by Seoul National University as part of a package deal to persuade Ahn to head its Graduate School of Convergence Science and Technology.

Ahn did not put these rumors to bed, even after he finally declared his presidential bid. He has not appeared at the Kwanhun Club, the senior journalists’ association that invites politicians and candidates for joint question-and-answer sessions, nor has he engaged in any formal interviews with TV or newspaper organizations. There were only fractional explanations from his aides, but we have heard nothing straight from the horse’s mouth.

Ahn has been dogged by a chain of scandals since he announced his presidential bid. In his first week as an official candidate, he apologized for his wife’s alleged tax-dodging. She has been accused of under-reporting the price of an apartment she bought in 2001 in order to avoid paying taxes. Behind his public popularity was his extraordinary uprightness and honesty. He later apologized for his wife’s mistake, but did not give details on how much money the couple saved.

More recently, he has been accused of plagiarism. A TV news network claimed that a medical paper he co-authored was copied from other works. His aides unveiled the names of other co-authors and denied any act of plagiarism or reproduction. But the paper should be verified by a third party, and Ahn should explain how he contributed to the work.

Ahn proposed earlier that his rivals refrain from negative campaigning in the interests of promoting social unity. But negative campaigning and proving oneself are different. Simply bowing and leaving hearings without answering any questions are not actions befitting a responsible candidate. As such, we hope to see more clarification and sincerity from Ahn in the future to fully convince the electorate that his talk about honesty and transparency come straight from the heart.

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