IT ``tycoon” Ahn Cheol-soo announced on Tuesday that he would not run for the mayorship of Seoul despite the overwhelming public support for him. While he was reigning over the nation’s mass media for five days with his possible candidacy, he outshone all likely contenders by a great margin and the share prices of AhnLab shot up only to plummet upon Ahn’s announcement. He is the founder and chairman of the board of the oldest and largest provider of computer vaccine programs in Korea.
Ahn said he made the decision to support Park Won-soon’s bid for the position in the Oct. 26 by-election. Although Park, a pro-democracy fighter-turned lawyer, is one of the most respected civic leaders in the nation and has earned recognition at home and abroad, including the Ramon Magsaysay Award for Public Service in 2006 for his ``principled activism fostering social justice, fair business practices, clean government and a generous spirit in South Korea's young democracy,” he is much less known than Ahn to his compatriots largely for political reasons.
Since its inception in 2008, the incumbent government has been eager to weaken the influence of Park who became the icon of civic activism by founding the People's Solidarity for Participatory Democracy (PSPD) in 1994, the Beautiful Foundation (BF) in 2000, and the Hope Institute in 2005. PSPD works to reform politics through grassroots efforts while BF strives to narrow the gap between the haves and have-nots through citizens' voluntary sharing of wealth. Hope provides policy alternatives and life-long education.
Park has iterated many times that his one and only concern was civic activism but he has been ceaselessly wished and touted to take up an elected post for quite some time. He didn’t seem truly interested in entering politics until two years ago when the National Intelligence Service (NIS) filed a defamation suit against him. In an interview in June 2009, he charged that NIS was pressuring corporations not to financially support civic groups such as Hope Institute. Hope, originally headquartered in central Seoul of Anguk-dong, moved to Pyeongchang-dong for lower rent amid dwindling corporate support in April 2009, about 13 months after President Lee Myung-bak took office.
``As the nation is aware, I have been doing charity movements through the Beautiful Foundation and Beautiful Stores, and carrying out projects to promote hope and governance of our society. I don't know why they are doing this," Park said in an interview shortly after the NIS suit was lodged. When the interviewer commented that the government might want to preempt his power before he emerged as a new opposition leader, Park said he had never wanted to be so ``but they seem to be eager to raise me up as one.” A year later, NIS was defeated in the suit.
The other reason behind Park’s attempt at Seoul mayorship may be his wish to finally materialize his own emphasis on management of local administrative units as a way of promoting social reform. The self-claimed ``social designer” launched the ``Mayor School” for mayor and councilor hopefuls at the Hope Institute in 2006 and the ``Mokmingwan (Village Officials) Club” for county chiefs and mayors last year.
The ``Mayor School” demands the participants observe ``Ten Commandments to be Good Mayors.” As I read the 10 clauses, I can’t help smiling because they seem to describe how Park has been working and living as a civic activist. The 10 include: ``Look at money as if it were stone.” ``It is people who work; gather the competent.” ``The harder the mayor studies, the greater the region develops.” and ``A good blueprint insures 10 years.”
Also on the list are ``Choice and concentration is the core of leadership.” ``Without creative alternatives, there will be no future for your region.” ``Bend (meaning “be modest” or “compromise.”).” ``Local councils and civic organizations are companions for municipal administrations.” ``Residents’ participation propels regional development.” Last but not least, ``Drop your thoughts on re-election and you will see beyond.”
Now that Park’s mayoral pursuit is known, he may become the target for both the ruling and opposition forces. If he garners growing support, some may use low cunning by branding him as a leftist as the dirty political minds used to do in this part of the world where MaCarthyism still haunts. I hope he will survive all unjust maneuvers and get the chance to rehabilitate Seoul, fulfilling the wishes of Ahn Cheol-soo and many other supra-partisan supporters.
I hope the result of the Oct. 26 by-election will give a new positive connotation to the date, which usually caused negative reflections ever since President Park Chung-hee was assassinated on the day in 1979, ending an 18-year dictatorship and bringing forth confusion that another dictator took advantage of. The old saying goes that your wish comes true when you say it to the full moon. As we celebrate the auspicious full moon day, Chuseok, on Monday, let’s wish for the best result of the election. Happy Chuseok, everyone!
정치뉴스가 국민의 관심을 끌기는 참 오랜만입니다. 그런 점에서 안철수 씨와 박원순 씨에게 감사합니다. 한편으로는 각자 자기 분야에서 리더 역할을 함으로써 사회와 국민에게 이바지해온 두 분으로 하여금 정치에 관심을 갖게 한 척박한 현실이 안타깝습니다. 그러나 지금 이 나라 상황은 브레히트가 말한 대로 '서정시를 쓰기 힘든 시대'입니다. 두 분이든 누구든 의식이 있는 사람은 정치에 관심을 갖고 공동선을 위해 전력해야 할 때입니다.
10월 26일. 1979년 박정희 대통령의 암살로 18년 간의 독재가 막을 내렸으나 또 다른 독재자의 도래를 가져온 그 날이 이번 서울시장 보궐선거로 인해 새로운 의미를 갖게 되길, 이 나라 현대사에 기억할 만한 밝은 날로 기록되기를 빕니다. 야당의 각성과 박원순 변호사의 선전을 기원합니다. '디자인 서울'의 기치 아래 엉망이 된 서울이 회복의 기회를 갖게 되길 간절히 바랍니다. 내일모레 월요일은 추석입니다. 보름달을 향해 빌면 이루어진다는 소원, 그 소원이 꼭 이루어지기를 빕니다.
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