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Beloved Presidential Candidate in South Korea Bows Out

With the presidential election just a month away, South Koreans were surprised when the top contender suddenly dropped out of the race. This unprecedented political move was made by South Korea's beloved entrepreneur-turned-politician, Ahn Cheol-soo, who is widely seen as the most apolitical and least corrupt candidate in the nation's recent political history.

Ahn Caricature

A Caricature of Ahn, Uploaded by Flickr User 안철수의 진심캠프 (CC-BY-NC-SA 2.0)

Ahn has a unique place in South Korea's political and business landscape; he founded the iconic antivirus software company AhnLab and is one of the country's leading businessman. He is also a doctor with a Ph.D degree and a former professor and dean of the prestigious Seoul National University. Recently Ahn made an impression as an atypical politician when he refused to take on the golden chance of becoming Seoul's mayor, which various polls indicated a sure-win for Ahn.

Even though politically he leans progressive, Ahn has been popular among liberals, moderates and  conservatives, alike.

On November 23, 2012, Ahn made an announcement that he would step aside and throw his support behind the Democratic candidate, Moon Jae-in, despite his high popularity. His move was unprecedented, a scene rarely seen in South Korean presidential races where candidates prefer an impasse over making compromises. This has made net users admire him and also lament. One of the most voted comments, written by a net user ID: gusa**** , read [ko]:

어제 사퇴 기자회견 중 안철수 씨가 말한 내용 중 ”제가 대통령이 되어 새로운 정치를 펼치는 것도 중요하지만 정치인이 국민 앞에 드린 약속을 지키는 것이 그 무엇보다 소중한 가치라고 생각합니다.” 다른 모든 정치인들이 좀 보고 배우고 느끼는게 있었으면. 제발.

Ahn said this at yesterday's press conference  Although me becoming the President and starting new politics in this nation is important, I see more value in showing a politician keep the promise he made with the public.” I seriously hope other politicians take lessons from him. I beg them.

Young supporters, were particularly disappointed. @ssong_a0321‘s worrisome tweet about young voters rapidly losing interest in politics as Ahn dropped out garnered numerous retweeets. [ko]

어제 일부 대학생들이 안철수 출마포기했더니 투표를 아예 안하겠다고 해서 제가 일갈한 글이 지금도 리트윗. 355번 리트윗. 끄악. 이제 고만 좀 했으면

Some college students said they will choose not to vote after hearing that Ahn will not run the race. So I made a stern reprimanding comment about that. And, Gosh. that tweet has been retweeted 355 times. Please let it stop.

@anarchisant wrote [ko] about a extremely devastated supporter who is having a hard time taking in the news:

어제 트친 한 분은 안철수 양보에 멘붕을 해서 문재인과 진중권에게 직접 멘션으로 욕설을 하고 자신의 팔로잉 대부분을 언팔하심.

One of my Twitter friends, had a mental breakdown after hearing Ahn's announcement, so he tweeted curses at Moon Jae-in and Jin Joong-kwon [note: Jin is a controversial left-leaning culture critic and one of the most influential Twitterers] and unfollowed most of people he used to follow.

Ahn speaking at a press conference

Ahn speaking at a press conference, Uploaded by Flickr User ì•ˆì² ìˆ˜ì˜ ì§„ì‹¬ìº í”„ (CC-BY-NC-SA 2.0)

The reason  Ahn, who was running as an independent, decided to put his weight behind the Democratic candidate Moon was so that the liberal vote would not split against the ruling conservative party candiate. The ruling party, Saenuri is widely unpopular among young voters for its countless scandals and its candidate, Park Geun-hye, is infamous for being the daughter of former President Park Chung-hee, a controversial figure who ruled the country with an iron fist and suppressed the freedom of speech and democracy.

What young progressive net users worry [ko] is that while Ahn had a wide coalition of supporters, Moon lacks such a base and choosing Moon to run against the conservative candidate, might undermine the chance of winning the election. @pluto__134340 warns [ko] the conservative party, who, feeling cocky after the news broke, is acting as if they already won the election.

새누리당 의원들. 문재인과의 양자구도니 벌써 이긴것처럼 굴지 마라 역겨우니까.[...]당신들 의원나리들이 깍아먹은 박근혜 표만해도 10%는 될테니, 그냥 입다물고 유권자들 얘기만 듣고 댕겨라.

Saenuri party members — don't act as if you have already won the election against Moon Jae-in. It is so disgusting (to see you act that way) [...] If we could count votes your (corrupt) party members have lost, it would equal 10 percent of Park's votes. So, please just shut up and listen to what the voters say.

There were several calm reactions, as commented by @comet35733 [ko] :

안철수의 사퇴가 그의 진심,담대함,아름다움을 증명했지만 그렇다고 정책과 정치행보가 옳았다고만은 할 수 없다.분명히 비판받을만한 미진함이 있었다.안철수의 사퇴는 남을 탓하느것이 아닌 자신의 부족함을 인정한 것.안지지자도 외부로 향하는 “탓”은 자제하시길

Ahn did prove his sincerity, audacity and his graceful personality by stepping aside. But it does not mean that his policy and political trajectory have been right. There were indeed some things that needed work and were criticized. Ahn's concession was a way of him acknowledging that he lacked some quality (to run for president) and it was not meant to blame others. So please Ahn supporters, stop blaming others for this.

With less than a month left till the election, @bang20 pointed out [ko] how chaotic the political landscape has become now.

난전임.. 안철수 반발파, 문재인 지지자, 진보주의자, 수꼴 알바까지… 뒤얽켜 대난장판..

What a hectic scene. The Anti-Ahn cliques, Moon Jae-in supporters, the progressive and political trolls hired by conservatives– all mingling together to create pandemonium.

Books about Ahn

Image of Ahn and Moon Biographies For Kids, Uploaded by Flickr user 편집장 (CC-BY-NC 2.0)

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