Ahn plans to form political group apart from DP

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Ahn plans to form political group apart from DP

Independent lawmaker and former presidential candidate Ahn Cheol-soo is once again shaking up the political arena, expressing his desire to form his own political circle ahead of the October by-election.

Ahn had a luncheon with reporters on Monday and told them he would gather his supporters for the upcoming race, without joining the largest opposition Democratic Party.

“What matters the most is [recruiting] people,” Ahn told reporters. “If I recruit some people, I will make a challenge.”

There has been speculation that Ahn will create his own political party after winning the by-election, but this was the first time that Ahn explicitly expressed his intentions.

Ahn said he would find high-profile politicians and figures to run in the upcoming race representing his ideas.

He said he would have “no holidays in July and August,” when the National Assembly is scheduled to adjourn for summer vacation, in order to recruit candidates for the race.

However, Ahn didn’t say he would form a new political party for the election or not. A close aide to Ahn also told reporters that Ahn didn’t have any plans to join the DP, although the new leadership of the opposition party is urging him to join.

“Although there would be some speculation that Ahn would eventually form an alliance with the opposition, Ahn hasn’t formulated a plan for a candidacy merger or an alliance,” the aide said. “He has a strong will to make his own way independently.”

Ahead of the May 18 anniversary of the Gwangju uprising, Ahn has a jam-packed schedule in the two regions representing liberals - Bongha Village of Gimhae in South Gyeongsang, where former president Roh Moo-hyun died, and Gwangju, a stronghold of left-wing politicians.

Today, Ahn will visit Bongha and pay his respects at Roh’s tomb. He will also meet with Kwon Yang-suk, Roh’s widow.

After that he will move to Gwangju to attend the event to mark the May 18 democracy uprising of Gwangju students against the Chun Doo Hwan dictatorship. Jeong Gi-nam, an aide to Ahn, said in a radio interview with TBS on Wednesday that Ahn is putting his emphasis on the Jeolla region.

“The Honam [Jeolla region] and Gwangju are regions that led the progressive democracy and the reformist development in Korean politics,” Jeong said. “In this sense, it is natural for Ahn, who aims to be a political leader, to visit the region. It could be an opportunity for him to reaffirm his vision and passion for new politics.”

The DP will also have a hectic schedule in Gwangju. Yesterday, the party leadership will issue a so-called “Gwangju Declaration,” a pledge for political reform, and attend the ceremony events for the Gwangju uprising today.

The DP appears to be anxious over losing the Jeolla region, in which it has earned about 90 percent of votes in most of the previous elections.

However, a poll by Gallup Korea in March says the DP’s approval rating would be lower than Ahn’s hypothetical new political party in the Jeolla region. Kim Young-hwan, a DP lawmaker and the party’s director of human resources committee, expressed his concerns about Ahn’s emergence, saying in a statement: “a cutthroat competition has started .?.?. it could be sort of a territorial dispute where we would compete with Ahn over recruiting people.”

By Kim Hee-jin [heejin@joongang.co.kr]

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