A software entrepreneur and noted philanthropist Ahn Chul-soo announced he would seek the South Korean presidency in a news conference inside a Salvation Army kitchen in Seoul.
Ahn is the third candidate to have declared in the race thus far and he is expected to shake up the political landscape quite a bit.
He’s popular with younger voters and advocates for the expansion of the welfare state, limiting the power of South Korea’s family-owned chaebols, and greater cooperation with the DPRK. Ahn stresses that South Korea needs a new economic model moving into the future, one that balances economic growth alongside social well-being.
His rivals promise similar things, signaling a shift in the South Korean mindset from fast, no-holds-barred development at any cost to security and stability through social welfare.
Even the right-wing Saenuri Party, once a bastion of liberal, laissez-faire economics, touts ‘economic democratization’ as one of its new party mantras. Park Geun-hye, daughter of former South Korean President Park Chung-hee, is the nominee for the Saenuri Party and currently leads in the polls. With the entrance of Ahn into the race, it is expected that he or his counterpart on the Democratic United Party, will have to form a coalition to overcome the formidable Ms. Park who polls well among the older generation who remember her father’s policies.
Moon Jae-in, the candidate for the Democratic United Party, worked as a human rights lawyer prior to beginning a political career. He currently polls ahead of Ahn after impressively sweeping the nomination process for the DUP. Because of hobbling losses in the parliamentary elections in April, there is a lot of pressure on the Moon campaign to turn in a victory for the party.
In many ways, Moon Jae-in has many advantages over Ahn Chul-soo: He is an established political figure, once having served as an advisor to former President Roh Moo-hyun, and has an established political base as opposed to Ahn who is running independently. A coalition deal between Ahn and Moon could result in Ahn receiving the largely ceremonial post of Prime Minister. In the end, it is necessary for one to bow to the other or else Ms. Park will soon enjoy a homecoming to the Blue House she grew up in during her father’s era.