— UPDATE — Sept. 6, 2011 @ 4:22 p.m. —
Well, that was over just as quickly as it started… Ahn announced at a press conference at 4:10 on Tuesday, Sept. 6 that he wouldn’t run and instead was supporting his pal Park Won-soon.
Ahn Chul-soo, the founder of computer security company Ahn Labs and Korea’s best-known tech entrepreneur is strongly considering running for Seoul’s Mayorship, the businessman confirmed Thursday.
Just days after rumors of his run emerged, Ahn was already polling in the high thirties, putting him ahead of mainstream candidates. According to several news sources, Ahn’s bid has caused the ruling Grand National Party and opposition Democratic Party to reevaluate their platforms.
Independent entrepreneurs have not occupied a high place in Korea’s social hierarchy for the past 50 years. The routes to prestige have been working at one of Korea’s large Chaebol conglomerates, entering civil service or becoming a career academic. The respect being shown to this candidate who is known for succeeding in spite of straying from the traditional path could be a sign that society is changing. And I’d say that holds true weather or not Ahn wins.
Online there has been a surge in talk about Ahn, with chatter reaching levels similar to outgoing mayor Oh Se-hoon, who committed political suicide in spectacular fashion.
The most common terms people are using along with Ahn’s name are currently mayor (1) and Seoul Mayor (3). With such strong associations, it will be very interesting how this election plays out for Ahn and what affect it has on Korea’s burgeoning startup community.