Software tycoon Ahn Cheol-soo finally declared his bid for the presidency on Wednesday, ending a year of speculation about his political ambitions. "People expect political reform from me," Ahn said in a prepared speech in front of reporters and supporters in downtown Seoul. "By running in this presidential election, I want to fulfill their desires."
Ahn, who trained as a doctor, founded his own anti-virus software company and taught at the prestigious universities such as Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology and Seoul National University.
He emerged as a strong presidential contender after hosting a series of casual gatherings with huge crowds of young Koreans to listen to their concerns and fears and offer them advice. He also donated a huge amount of his personal fortune to form a charitable foundation.
Ahn said it would be "inappropriate at this point" to comment on whether he will be able to agree on fielding a single opposition candidate, because it is unclear just how much reform the established political parties are willing to accept and whether the public agrees.
He vowed not to disappoint the public desire for genuine change. It therefore remains to be seen whether the progressive vote countering the popularity of ruling Saenuri Party presidential candidate Park Geun-hye will be split between two candidates.
Ahn resigned his posts as dean of the Graduate School of Convergence Science and Technology at Seoul National University and chairman of the board at AhnLab. He promised to donate the remainder of his stake in the company to charity if elected. "Now that I have decided to live my life as a politician, I will continue to offer positive assistance to my country regardless of the results of the presidential election," he said.
Ahn also proposed to sit down with Park and Democratic United Party presidential candidate Moon Jae-in to hammer out a pledge to compete based solely on the merits of their policies and refrain from mud-slinging.
Neither Park nor Moon have taken up the offer, saying they would give an answer later.