Ahn Cheol-soo

Ahn Cheol-soo (Korean안철수 [an tɕʰʌl.s͈u]; born 26 February 1962) is a South Korean politician, medical doctor, businessperson and software entrepreneur. A two-time former presidential election candidate in 2012 and 2017, Ahn was the Bareunmirae Party's candidate for the Seoul mayorship in 2018.[3]

Ahn Cheol-soo
Ahn Cheol-Soo cropped (cropped).jpg
Chairman of the People's Party
In office
27 August 2017 – 13 February 2018
Preceded byPark Jie-won
Succeeded byPosition abolished
In office
2 February 2016 – 29 June 2016
Serving with Chun Jung-bae
Preceded byPosition established
Succeeded byPark Jie-won
Member of the National Assembly
In office
25 April 2013 – 15 April 2017
Preceded byRoh Hoe-chan
Succeeded byKim Seong-hwan (2018)
ConstituencySeoul Nowon C
Chairman of the New Politics Alliance for Democracy
In office
26 March 2014 – 31 July 2014
Serving with Kim Han-gil
Preceded byPosition established
Succeeded byMoon Jae-in
Personal details
Born (1962-02-26) 26 February 1962 (age 58)
Miryang, South Gyeongsang Province, South Korea
NationalitySouth Korean
Political partyPeople Party (2020–)
Other political
Bareunmirae Party (2018–2020)
People's Party (2016–2018)
NPAD (2014–2015)
Spouse(s)Kim Mi-kyung
Children1 daughter
Alma materSeoul National University
University of Pennsylvania
Software entrepreneur
Known forV3 (antivirus software)
ReligionRoman Catholic(Christian Name : Paul Chong Hasang)
Military service
Allegiance South Korea
Branch/service Republic of Korea Navy
Years of service1992–1994
Rank대위.JPG Lieutenant (Korean: Daewi)
Ahn Cheol-soo
Revised RomanizationAn Cheol-su
McCune–ReischauerAn Ch'ŏlsu

He ran as an independent candidate for the presidential election in 2012, but withdrew a month before the election took place to support Moon Jae-in whom he ran against in 2017 as the People's Party nominee. He was a founding co-leader and the party leader of the People's Party until his party and Bareun Party merged as Bareunmirae Party in February 2018.

Prior to politics, Ahn founded AhnLab, Inc., an antivirus software company, in 1995. He was chairman of the board and Chief Learning Officer of AhnLab until September 2012, and remains the company's largest stakeholder. Prior to entering politics, Ahn served as dean of the Graduate School of Convergence Science and Technology at Seoul National University until September 2012.

Early life and educationEdit

Ahn was born on 26 February 1962, in Miryang, South Korea, while his father was on military service there; he subsequently moved with his family to Busan, where he grew up.[4] Ahn was not an academic child but had number academic hobbies such as reading.[5]

He received his Doctor of Medicine (MD), Master of Science (MS), and Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) degrees in physiology from Seoul National University between 1980 and 1991. He became the youngest chief of professors at Dankook University medical college at 27 years of age, marking his first career as a medical doctor.[6] Ahn met his wife whilst in university.[7]

Whilst working as a graduate student pursuing his MD, Ahn began to gain an interest in computer software as a hobby, in particular, antivirus software. Ahn soon began working on his own antivirus software after he was confronted with a virus that was mass-infecting computers in Korea. Ahn was soon infected with the same virus and reverse engineered the virus in an attempt to erase it from his disk drive which was successful. The program he wrote to help get rid of the virus was eventually called "Vaccine"[8] which Ahn distributed for free.

Business careerEdit

AhnLab, IncEdit

After finishing military service as a medical officer in the South Korean navy, and leaving behind his career in the medical profession, Cheol-soo went on to establish his venture company AhnLab, Inc in March 1995[6] after being advised by a software company official to do so.[9] Ahn had previously attempted to distribute V3 via Samsung's brand though Samsung rejected Ahn's offer.[10]

Ahn, not knowing how to run a business at first, struggled for the first several years.[11] Whilst managing the company, Ahn was also attempting to get a master's degree in engineering at the University of Pennsylvania, where he graduated in 1997.[12] Ahn eventually received a $10 million offer from US software giant, McAfee[13] and Ahn met with John McAfee personally. McAfee was struggling to expand into South Korea due to AhnLab, Inc and wanted to purchase the company in an attempt to monopolize the anti-virus software market in South Korea. Ahn rejected the offer because, despite AhnLab struggling, selling the company would lead to widespread redundancies[14][15] and might allow a foreign firm to dominate the Korean market.

In 1999, the company began to run a surplus after the CIH virus became widespread in Korea and people needed to buy V3 to protect against it.[16] By the end of 1999, AhnLab, Inc became the second biggest computer security company in South Korea.[17] That same year, he won the Scientist of the Year Award presented by the Korea Science Journalists Association.[18]

The same company later became the largest computer security company in South Korea,[19][20][21] and was included in annual lists of Korea's most admired companies by Korea Management Association Consulting between 2004 and 2008.[22][23][24][25][26] He resigned as CEO in 2005 and served as chairman of the board until 2012.

Later life and educationEdit

Ahn became an outside director of POSCO in 2005, and from 2010 to 2011 was chairman of the company.

Ahn was awarded an Executive Master of Business Administration (EMBA) degree from the Wharton School (San Francisco campus) in 2008. He then became a professor at KAIST in 2008, and later in the beginning of 2011 became the Dean of the Graduate School of Convergence Science and Technology at Seoul National University.[6]

Political careerEdit

Entry into politicsEdit

Since 2006, Ahn had been offered places in the main political parties but was constantly denied any chance to run as an independent due to opposing factions.

In early September 2011, speculation spread that Ahn would enter politics by competing in the 26 October Seoul mayoral by-election. The Democratic Party and Liberty Korea Party attempted to recruit Ahn for the mayoral by-election though they failed due to Ahn feeling like he, and many other voters, had become disenfranchised with the main two choices.[27] Ahn eventually made an announcement, denouncing the opposition and ruling party[28] and saying he was not sure on his candidacy, deciding to watch the polls before making a choice though he shared the sentiment that he felt like it'd take a lot of work to help Seoul, saying "ten years of work" would be needed to help the city.[29]

Analysts stated that if positioned as an independent, Ahn would attract a degree of support from those disaffected by mainstream political parties in the wake of corruption allegations and continuing policy failures.

Ahn's polling was higher than other potential candidates, at 35% with second place coming in at 17%.[30] His approval rating was subsequently polled afterwards, reaching over 50%.[31] Ahn eventually didn't run despite his positive poll ratings[32] instead endorsing Park Won-soon who went on to win the by-election.[33] Park's win has been attributed to Ahn's endorsement due to centrist voters moving to Park's side after the endorsement.[34]

He alluded to standing as a presidential candidate in his 2012 book Thoughts of Ahn Cheol-Soo.[35]

First presidential campaign (2012)Edit

On 19 September 2012, at 3 p.m. Korea Standard Time, Ahn held a press conference and announced his intention to run for the 2012 presidential election. This announcement came after months of speculation on whether or not Ahn was going to run for the presidency. The South Korean presidential election was to be held on 19 December 2012. In an address that lasted around 20 minutes, Ahn spent a considerable amount of time explaining how he came to the decision to run for President of the Republic of Korea, quoting the people he had met while exploring his candidacy, who had expressed their desire for a "new politics". Ahn at one point showed to be polling stronger than Moon Jae-in, with a few polls showing he could win against Park Geun-hye, the candidate who would go on to win the election. On 23 November 2012, at 8:20 p.m. KST, Ahn announced that he would drop out of the race,[36] endorsing Moon Jae-in, the Democratic United Party presidential candidate.

Early Assembly career (2013–2016)Edit

On 11 March 2013, Ahn announced that he would run for a seat in the National Assembly of South Korea as an independent candidate in the by-election in the district of Seoul Nowon C. He won the election on 24 April, entering his first elected office.[37] In May 2013, he launched a new think tank named Policy Network Tomorrow.[38]

New Politics Alliance for Democracy Chairmanship (2014)Edit

Having entered the Assembly, Ahn began to explore the creation of a new party, which was provisionally named the New Political Vision Party on the basis of public surveys.[39] On 26 March 2014, however, while the party was in the process of being set up, Ahn merged his faction with the liberal Democratic Party to form the New Politics Alliance for Democracy (NPAD), becoming co-chairman of the new party alongside Kim Han-gil.[40][41] Ahn and Kim both resigned from their position three months later in July following the new party's disappointing performance in by-elections that year, which had seen the liberals lose a seat in Jeolla to conservatives for the first time in 26 years.[42]

Defection from the NPAD (2015)Edit

Ahn remained in the NPAD, but came into increasing conflict with Moon Jae-in, who had taken over sole leadership of the party after his resignation, and the "pro-Roh" faction that Moon represented. In December 2015, Ahn issued an ultimatum to Moon demanding that a convention be held at the beginning of 2016 to elect a new party leader. Moon rejected the demand.[43] Ahn then left the NPAD along with a range of other lawmakers opposed to Moon, including Kim Han-gil.[44] Announcing that he would form a new party, he subsequently joined forces with Chun Jung-bae, who had left the party earlier in the year,[45] to form the People's Party in January 2016.[46] Moon resigned as leader after Ahn's defection, describing his experience as "a series of difficult days without a single one of respite".[47]

People's Party (2016–2018)Edit

Ahn positioned the new People's Party as an anti-establishment centrist force, attracting support from both political wings.[48] He labeled the remaining NPAD "anachronistic progressives",[49] and accused contemporary Korean politicians of lacking policies beyond "short-term gimmicks".[50] In the lead-up to the April 13 parliamentary election, he came into conflict with his co-leader Chun and other members of the party after Kim Chong-in, the interim leader of the Democratic Party, the NPAD's successor, called for the two parties to form an electoral alliance. Kim Han-gil and Ahn's co-leader Chun both supported the plan, but Ahn rejected any prospect of an alliance with his former party.[51] The proposal was ultimately scotched, with Kim Han-gil withdrawing from the upcoming election in protest.[52]

In the event, the People's Party performed better than anticipated, coming second in party-list voting and winning 38 seats overall, including 23 of the 28 districts in the liberal stronghold of Jeolla.[53] The People's Party held the balance of power in the new Assembly, establishing a three-party system.[54] Ahn was credited for the victory, which was seen as giving him a position as kingmaker and support for contesting the presidential elections in the following year.[55][56] Following the election, Ahn rejected continued calls to regroup with the Minjoo Party, stating that "it would be inappropriate to speak of politically realigning at this point in time". He added that the People's Party would not be "a mere tie-breaking third party, but ... a new opinion leader in parliamentary affairs".[57]

Second presidential campaign and defeat (2017)Edit

Ahn was widely known to be a likely contender for the 2017 South Korean presidential election. He was selected as the People's Party's nominee,[58] defeating Sohn Hak-kyu and Park Joo-sun.[59] Despite rapid increase in opinion polling which briefly bypassed Moon Jae-In, Ahn floundered in TV debates that led to his loss finishing third in a field of five total candidates.[60]

Return of party chairmanship (2017-2018)Edit

The underperformance of his presidential campaign and a party scandal that found People's Party members fabricating evidence to smear Moon Jae-in's campaign led Ahn to declare in July 2017 to both apologize and take a step back from politics in "self-reflection." He returned a month later to run, and later win, the party chairmanship.[61]

Bareunmirae Party (2018–2019)Edit

As head of the People's Party, Ahn was a strong advocate for merging with the center-right Bareun Party. The two leaders of the respective parties, Ahn and former presidential contender Yoo Seung-min, pushed forward with the merger which was completed in February 2018.

Although Yoo retained a leadership position within the new party and Ahn stepped down from any leadership role, as of March 2018 took on the role of leading the party's talent recruiting committee - a formal position speculated to signal his preparation to run for the Seoul mayorship later in the year.[62]

Seoul Mayorship campaign (2018)Edit

People Party (2020–present)Edit

Ahn Cheol-soo will return to South Korea's political arena, according to a Facebook post.[when?]

On March 1, he was reported that he was carrying out Covid-19 medical service in Daegu with his wife Kim Mi-kyung. It is said that there is no problem in treating patients because they have a doctor's license.[63]

On April 1, He started the "Chunri-gil National Territory Master," a run of hope and unity that runs a total of 400 kilometers.

Political positionsEdit

"New Politics"Edit

Ahn has stated that he considers Franklin D. Roosevelt to be a role model,[55] and has referred to himself as the Bernie Sanders of Korea.[64] He supports an increased capital gains tax, higher public welfare spending, and a cautious approach to free trade agreements.[55]


Despite taking progressive stances on social and economic issues, Ahn’s foreign policy proposals are roughly similar to that of South Korean conservatives: he calls for a tougher approach towards North Korea,[65] and supports the THAAD system (although initially opposed to it)[66]. In September 2012, Ahn visited the graves of Syngman Rhee, Park Chung-hee, and Kim Dae-jung. Park and Rhee are often praised by Korean conservatives, and Kim by liberals. Ahn stated at the time that it would be "hypocritical to paint half the people as enemies and at the same time call for 'unity'".[67] Ahn has been considered "more palatable for conservative voters" in part due to his business background.[58]

National security (THAAD)Edit

Ahn was among the first who opposed the American deployment of the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense system, commonly referred to as THAAD, alongside Moon Jae-in. However, he changed his stance suggesting it was "irresponsible" for any future president to reverse an agreement already made between the United States and Korea.[58]

LGBT rightsEdit

Ahn has stated he opposes the legalization of same-sex marriage, although in a more detailed article on broadcasting network SBS' website, he said that same-sex marriage needs to be achieved through social discussion.[citation needed]


In December 2011, Ahn has expressed his willingness to donate half of his shares in AhnLab for the education of children from low-income families. He owns 37.1 percent of AhnLab shares, and as of 9 December 2011, the value of the shares to be donated is about 250 billion won ($218 million).[68]

Legal problemsEdit

In September 2012, Ahn made a public apology as reports surfaced that his wife evaded taxes by under-pricing a 2001 apartment she bought worth ₩450 million to ₩250 million, thus reducing the acquisition and registration taxes by up to ₩10 million. However, a statement by the Korea Taxpayers' Association claimed that the "down contract" was in accordance with trade customs and thus not unlawful due to flaws in the local tax law between 1996 and 2005.[69]

Personal lifeEdit

In 1988 he married Kim Mi-kyung, who is currently a professor at the Seoul National University College of Medicine. Ahn has a daughter with Kim.[70]


  • 2012. Thought of Ahn Cheol-Soo (안철수의 생각). 김영사. 276 pages. ISBN 9788934958710
  • 2009. Happy Virus by Ahn Cheol-soo (행복 바이러스 안철수: 안철수 박사가 쓴 안철수 이야기). 리젬. 136 pages. ISBN 9788992826259.[71]
  • 2009. My Mother Who Fostered My Ability (재능을 키워 준 나의 어머니). Jaeneung Academy. 143 pages. ISBN 9788976492456.
  • 2007. My Turning Point (내 인생의 결정적 순간: 그 순간이 없었으면 지금의 나는 없다). IMAGE Box. 247 pages. ISBN 9788991684348.
  • 2004. What We Need (CEO 안철수, 지금 우리에게 필요한 것은). KimYoung. 259 pages. ISBN 8934917202.
  • 2003. My Choice (나의 선택: 무엇이든지 하고 싶지만 쉽게 결단을 내리지 못하는 젊음에게). JeongEum. 231 pages. ISBN 8990164192.
  • 2001. Spiritual Showdown (CEO 안철수, 영혼이 있는 승부). KimYoung. 291 pages. ISBN 8934907525.
  • 2000. Ahn’s Internet Shortcut (안철수의 인터넷 지름길). BookMark. 396 pages. ISBN 8988351142.
  • 1997. Ahn’s Protection and Healing Computer Virus (안철수의 바이러스 예방과 치료). Information Age. 222 pages. ISBN 8985346865.
  • 1996. Analysing Computer Virus and Making Antivirus Software (바이러스 분석과 백신 제작). Information Age. 391 pages. ISBN 8985346180.
  • 1995. Eccentric Computer Doctor, Ahn Cheol-soo (별난 컴퓨터 의사 안철수). Vision. 336 pages. ISBN 8985456148.
  • 1995. Learning Computer Easily (컴퓨터, 참 쉽네요!). Youngjin. 396 pages. ISBN 8931406509.


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  70. ^ http://news.mk.co.kr/newsRead.php?year=2012&no=610838 (in Korean)
  71. ^ Book review "Happy Virus by Ahn Cheol-soo" at The Hankyoreh. (in Korean)

External linksEdit