Software tycoon Ahn Cheol-soo said Monday he will donate his W150 billion stake in his anti-virus software company AhnLab to charity (US$1=W1,124). "There is no other hidden motive," said Ahn, who is widely seen as a leading presidential hopeful. "I'm only fulfilling what I decided to do a long time ago."
But among politicians Ahn's latest move is seen as a precursor to his presidential bid. Ahn, who commands a huge base of supporters for his accomplishments and honest image, has been heavily wooed by progressive political groups and is said to be thinking of forming his own party.
In an e-mail to staff, Ahn said he would respect the advice of his workers as to how to spend his donation, but added that he hoped it would be used to help children of low-income families. He said the crux of many of social problems in Korea lies in confusion over values and an imbalanced distribution of resources. He added that education holds the key to solutions. Ahn said corporations do not simply exist to make a profit but have important social responsibilities. "I have long believed they need to embrace bigger values, allowing individuals to realize their potential and contribute to society, so the time has come for me to act on that belief," he said.
Ahn's 37.1 percent stake in AhnLab is valued at around W300 billion. A source close to Ahn said, "I believe he has done a lot of thinking about the damage he could do to his company if he enters politics. He is likely to decide (whether to run for the presidency) by the end of this month."
Whether intended to or not, Ahn's decision to donate his wealth to charity could maximize his political clout. He invited others to emulate his decision and hinted that some of his associates have already pledged to do so, which could amp up the pressure on his potential opponents.