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`Foolish Roh Moo-hyun` vs. `Canny Ahn Cheol-soo`

Posted April. 07, 2014 03:54,   


Late former President Roh Moo-hyun ran for mayor of Busan as the opposition Democratic Party’s candidate in 1995 but failed. Three years later, he won in the by-election of Jongno district in Seoul to become a lawmaker. Running in the 2000 general elections in a district in Busan, he left a strong impression by saying he was running in Busan to “get rid of regionalism that erodes this country.” Although he lost in the election, he earned a nickname “foolish Roh Moo-hyun,” which became his strong political asset.

Rep. Ahn Cheol-soo, a co-leader of the main opposition New Politics Alliance for Democracy, said in the first general meeting since the creation of the party, “President Roh Moo-hyun showed self-sacrifice consistently although people called him foolish. People who remembered it made him a president.” As the new party calls for abolishing the candidate nominate system for lower-level administration chiefs and councilors, Ahn mentioned “foolish Roh Moo-hyun.” Ahn added, “Judges changed Kim Yu-na’s gold medal into a silver medal. Do the people remember the gold medal winner? No. People remember the silver medalist.”

It is doubtful whether many people would agree on comparing the former president with the figure skater over the candidate nomination issue, which is controversial even in the party. Roh Hoe-chan, a former lawmaker of the minor opposition Progressive Justice Party, criticized Ahn, saying, “The pledge of not nominating candidates for provincial elections is a typical example of populism and anti-political pledge.” Roh added, “Ahn’s new politics evaporated,” criticizing him for breaking his own pledge. Ahn had promised to create an independent new party that will break with privileged bipartisanship, but only 37 days later, he joined the Democratic Party.

“It was shocking to me that Ahn made an overnight decision to create a new party with the Democratic Party, which he defined as an old political power,” said Yoon Yeo-joon, who broke with Ahn after serving as a chairman of the New Politics Alliance, adding, “A politician who lacks creed sticks to short-term gains.” It remains to be seen whether the road of “foolish Roh Moo-hyun” and that of “canny Ahn Cheol-soo” will meet eventually or keep going a different way.

Editorial Writer Park Seong-won (swpark@donga.com)