Ahn: 'Not afraid of getting bashed'

Seoul National University professor Ahn Cheol-soo reportedly said he was "not afraid of getting bashed" if he joins the presidential race, as his opponents continued to criticize him for remaining coy about his political ambitions.

The comments, relayed by professor Jae Jeong-im of Semyung University, comes in light of the former software mogul's advanced political gestures following the release of his latest book "Thoughts of Ahn Cheol-soo," which Jae helped compile.

"What I am focused on is figuring out whether it is right or wrong for me to join (the presidential race), whether (the current support rating) is fully mine, or whether I am qualified. I am, however, not afraid of getting bashed if I do (join the race)," Jae quoted Ahn as saying in her radio interview Monday.

Ahn also reportedly said he was confident he could make the bid, as he tried to live his life ethically.

"If this were to be the road that I need to take, I can take it, even if it comes with damages to my honor, some cuts and scrapes and even a bullet," Ahn reportedly said.

Ahn, the founder of the nation's leading anti-virus institute, has been the strongest rival to the veteran frontrunner Park Geun-hye of the ruling Saenuri Party in public polls.

His book, compiled in interview format discussing pending issues such as welfare and security, set off raging speculation that Ahn will soon be joining the presidential race on the side of the opposition.

Ahn also appeared on the well-known television talk show "Healing Camp" of SBS scheduled to be aired late Monday night, discussing issues ranging from his private life to his political bearings.

When asked during the show when he will finally throw his hat into the ring, Ahn replied, "Am I qualified for it?" and separately commented that "the Republic of Korea has fallen off a cliff."

Potential opponents of Ahn continued to denounce him for being evasive.

"(The book) is identical to his prior columns carried by major media, only now in Q&A format," Hong Sa-duck, co-chairman of Park Geun-hye's campaign team told reporters Sunday.

Ahn is widely expected to form an alliance with the final candidate of the main opposition party.

SNU Professor Park Hyo-chong, who has joined Park Geun-hye's camp as a political adviser, also criticized Ahn. "(The book) shows positions closer to those of a pundit, rather than the vision of a politician," he said in a radio interview.

DUP runners were also skeptic, with Kim Doo-kwan, former South Gyeongsang Province governor, saying, "It is dangerous and wrong to think that only those outside the political circle can be trusted." He emphasized that party politics must be restored.

Those who had been tapping the SBS for a chance to appear on the famous talk show also expressed frustration, saying Ahn's appearance at this sensitive time was inconsiderate and unfair.

"Although Ahn has not yet declared his presidential bid, he is without a doubt a potential candidate…It is unfair for him to appear on 'Healing Camp' considering how SBS has refused to have other ruling party candidates citing fairness," Cho Dong-won, who heads the Saenuri Party's public relations and strategy, said in a briefing.

According to the National Election Commission, Ahn's TV appearance would not be against the law even if he was a legitimate candidate, as the current regulations ban exclusive TV appearances of candidates from 90 days prior to the election day.

The touchy reactions among the candidates and party members came as Ahn's popularity ratings remained high, while his books were being sold at a record-breaking speed.

The support rating of Ahn increased by 1.2 percentage points to 19.9 per cent from 18.7 per cent two weeks ago following the publication of his book last Thursday, according to the polls conducted by JoongAng Ilbo on 2,000 eligible voters nationwide.

Although Park Geun-hye still led against Ahn by 4.1 percentage points in a hypothetical one-on-one race, Ahn's rating continued to inch up, from 18.9 per cent to 21.0 per cent before and after the book release.

Of the respondents, 37.8 per cent said they wished Ahn would vie as an independent, while 29.5 per cent said Ahn should align with a DUP candidate.

Ahn's book has also been flying off the shelves, according to book stores.

On the first day of release, 7,500 copies were sold to break the record at Kyobo Book Center.

It was double the record made from sales of Steve Jobs' biography of 3,500 copies on its release date last October.

Online book store Yes24 said the sale of Ahn's book reached 25,700 copies as of Monday morning.

Become a fan on Facebook