Ahn Cheol Soo, a former IT software tycoon, portrays himself as a centrist who can achieve a better change of government and lead social and economic reforms as he makes his second presidential bid.
Ahn, who regards former US president Franklin D. Roosevelt as a role model, thinks he is the strongest enemy to compete equally with front-runner Moon Jae-in of the main opposition Democratic Party in a presidential election on May 9.
After becoming the presidential candidate of the People's Party Tuesday, the former software mogul vowed to lead broad reforms focusing on state prosecutors and family-run conglomerates, or chaebol, if elected to succeed conservative ex-president Park Geun-hye who was impeached and expelled from office.
Ahn is more moderate in his political ideology than Moon. Both advocate great welfare spending, inter-Korean reconciliation, and economic justice, but Ahn is conservative in security and some other issues.
"I will achieve a better change of government," Ahn said, calling for fair market competition and transparent corporate governance to reform chaebol in a campaign led by the Fair Trade Commission, a powerful state anti-trust watchdog. "Among other things, the commission's authority, independence, and transparency should be strengthened."
He ruled out the unconditional resumption of suspended inter-Korean dialogue saying South Korea should take the initiative to draw North Korea into the dialogue table. "We should open dialogue at the right time while carrying out strong sanctions."
Born on February 26, 1962, in a southeastern rural town of Miryang, he moved with his family to Busan where he grew up. After earning degrees in physiology from Seoul National University (SNU), he became the youngest chief of professors at Dankook University's medical college in 1990.
As a medical doctor, he researched computer vaccines at night and clinched more degrees from the University of Pennsylvania and the Wharton School (San Francisco campus). After completing military service as a navy medical officer, he established AhnLab, an antivirus software company, in 1995, and served as dean of SNU's Graduate School of Convergence Science and Technology until 2012 when he declared his first presidential bid.
Running as a popular independent candidate in 2012, he surprised voters by withdrawing from the race to support Moon who eventually lost to Park. Moon and Ahn merged their factions later to form the country's main opposition group but Ahn quit last year to create his own opposition party based on regional support in southwestern provinces.
Lim Chang-won = email@example.com