Presidential transition committee Chairman Ahn Cheol-soo announced Wednesday he will not take a post in the Cabinet of the incoming government, to “take the pressure off” President-elect Yoon Suk-yeol.
“I have thought a lot about my next move (after the transitional committee). … And I made the personal decision that it would be better to open up room for the president-elect to spread his wings,” Ahn said in a press briefing at the presidential transition committee headquarters in Jongno, Seoul.
“So I thought it would be better for me to not take part in the Cabinet, to lessen the pressure.”
Ahn, who dropped out of the presidential election less than a week from Election Day to declare support for Yoon, had been considered a strong contender for prime minister of the incoming government.
But Ahn explained that in a private meeting Tuesday afternoon, he told Yoon to find “the right person” to carry out the president-elect’s will in managing state affairs as prime minister.
“As the chairman of the presidential transition committee, I will draw a good blueprint for the next government,” Ahn said.
Ahn also explained he had informed the president-elect of his intentions prior to any request from Yoon, as he saw it would lighten the burden for the president-elect.
On his next move after the transition committee ends upon Yoon’s inauguration in May, Ahn said he will not participate in local elections in June, but will take time to “recharge.”
“As you have seen in the short term — in the past one year — and in the long term — past 10 years — I need to take time off to recharge,” Ahn said.
“It takes superhuman strength and mental power to run in an election,” Ahn added. “I realized I would need some time to recharge myself to better concentrate and serve the people.”
Ahn recently ran in two elections, in the by-election for Seoul mayor in April 2021 and this year’s presidential election.
As the minor opposition People’s Party, for which Ahn is chairman, is currently in negotiations to merge with the incoming ruling People Power Party affiliated with Yoon, Ahn said he is seeking improvements in politics.
“There are a lot of things that need to be improved (in the party) and I believe they need to reshape themselves to take care of the people’s livelihoods,” Ahn said.
The two main parties are in the same position to disappoint the people, and they need to not only change their reputation, but also their actions, Ahn explained.
“The Democratic Party of Korea has disappointed many during the five years as a ruling party and so has the People Power Party, which has been largely recognized to support the establishment.”
The committee chairman said he would not consider vying for the chairman post of the People Power Party, citing that current Chairman Lee Jun-seok’s term still has a year left.
During the press briefing, Ahn also spoke about his experience leading the presidential transition committee in the 15 days since its launch.
“Personally, it feels more fruitful than I expected, to have the opportunity to plan out all the things that I have dreamed of in managing the overall state affairs,” Ahn said.
“As it is not the end yet, I am reinforcing my determination to do my best to draw the blueprint well for the new government.”
He also said he is happy to lead the special committee dedicated to handling the COVID-19 pandemic, to make differences in society to lessen the burden of the people and support them.
In a separate press briefing, Ahn also revealed his views on the role of the next prime minister, that the person should be capable and have the leadership to handle numerous issues currently challenging the country, including the economy, balanced regional growth and sustainability, among others.
A leader who can plan for long-term goals for the country’s future should also be considered for the post, Ahn added.
Meanwhile, as Yoon has made his intentions clear, his office said it is speeding up efforts to sort out potential candidates for the prime minister’s post.
“Ahn has delivered his intentions (to the president-elect) and I can say we are now speeding up the process for appointment of the prime minister,” Kim Eun-hye, Yoon’s spokesperson, said in the press briefing that took place prior to Ahn’s on Wednesday.
With Ahn off the list, former Prime Minister Han Duck-soo, a trade expert, former chief of the liberal Democratic Party of Korea Kim Han-gil and Park Joo-sun, former parliamentary vice speaker, are being considered for the post, according to speculation in political circles and sources from the presidential transition committee.