Ahn Hee-jung, South Chungcheong Province governor and late President Roh Moo-hyun’s right-hand man, entered the fray in the power-struggle within the opposition Democratic Party on Tuesday.
The 49-year-old liberal-minded politician was one of Roh’s closest aides, from 1994 onward. In the years leading up to Roh’s election in 2002, Ahn played the role of top strategist, earning himself the moniker “Little Roh Moo-hyun.” However, Ahn remained on the fringes of power during the Roh administration after he was found guilty of accepting illegal political funding.
While declaring his bid for reelection in the June 4 local elections, Ahn implied that he would seek a greater role within the main opposition Democratic Party and even make a bid for presidency.
“I am confident that I can carry on the spirit of presidents Kim Dae-jung and Roh Moo-hyun as their (political) firstborn,” Ahn said at a press conference on Tuesday.
“I have aspirations of becoming the eldest child, who will carry the house (the DP).”
Ahn also attacked the DP’s leadership, saying that “through new leadership” he will strive to show the public that the DP is the party most capable of promoting the peace and development of the country.
Regarding his connection to Roh, some see Ahn’s comments as heralding a possible rift within the DP’s pro-Roh faction, which currently rallies behind Rep. Moon Jae-in.
Moon, another close aide to Roh and a DP presidential candidate last year, has repeatedly stated that he will not shy away from making another attempt, earning criticism from those outside the faction.
The DP’s senior advisor Chung Dong-young, who represented the party in the 2007 presidential election, warned that DP members should support the party leaders, while Sohn Hak-kyu recently commented that Moon should be thinking about how the party can help the people.
As for the DP leaders, they are focusing on containing internal friction while keeping Moon and other would-be leaders in check.
“Now is not the time to set personal, political goals,” DP chairman Rep. Kim Han-gil said on Tuesday in response to Moon’s apparent intention to run again for president. Kim added that the time calls for actions that put the party ahead of personal goals, and that this message concerns every DP member.
By Choi He-suk (email@example.com