Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Who is Ahn Cheol-soo?

Actor, comedian, physician
It's said that the surest way of getting elected president in these cynical times is to tell everyone you're not running for president. If that is the case, experts believe Ahn Cheol-soo should now be well into his second term of office. But who is Ahn Cheol-soo, and why are the political establishment now so afraid of him that they are considering a so-called 'Ahn Cheol-soo law' that would stop anyone who happened to be called Ahn Cheol-soo running for elected positions?

Like the people he might seek to represent, Ahn is a man of many faces. Having graduated as a medical doctor, under the alias of Kim Cheol-soo he built a massive anti-virus company which cured no-one and left Korea at the mercy of the Kim Yu-na outbreak of 2010.

These were difficult times for Ahn, with one law professor at Korea International University going so far as to call his company 'irresponsible' and 'unethical', with his previous popularity ascribed to "the public's simple and childlike imagination, that of a good-willed doctor dressed in a white gown and curing viruses in computers as if they were similar to those in humans." The Korea Times said that while AhnLab and other security firms had profited massively from the shaky Korean Internet environment, it was hard to see how they improved it, and that 'it could be argued that they had been massaging the symptoms with one hand but feeding the disease with the other, extending problems when they had a shot at stemming them just to keep the money coming in'. While many politicians could rightly be accused of being one-handed massagers, most do not put Korea's national security at risk - at least before coming to office anyway.

Ahn started spending time overseas and within Korea's foreign community, where he adopted another alias, 'Charles'.

Attempting to rebuild his reputation with Koreans, Ahn then embarked on a tour giving a series of lectures complaining about things that upset him, enthralling young voters who had ignored their parents when they had said the same things. "Nobody cares what my parents think," said 22 year-old Kim, a student in K-Logic at Seoul International University, "because they never achieved anything. But Ahn is famous and someone I can follow unquestioningly". Kim's reaction was typical of the Ahn-wave which swept through the youth demographic as people too young to remember Barack Obama's presidential campaign seriously believed Ahn's message of hope and change rather than understanding it as a satire.

Deciding that laughter was in fact the best medicine, rather than the anti-virus industry, Ahn then developed a stand-up routine based on his lecture tour. Ahn's classic "and, and, what about people pushing on the subway, huh? Huh? You know what I’m talking about" sketch led to his big comedy break, a regular spot on America's NBC comedy series 'Community', playing a Chinese or Korean Spanish language tutor who cannot speak Spanish but who faked his way into the job, leading to talk of him starring in a Korean version set in the world of politics, before Community was canceled for being too clever for American audiences.

But the TV series led Ahn to his next major acting job, the part of a flamboyant gangster in the breakout movie hit, 'The Hangover', a role he reprized for the sequel so successfully that the possibility of the next Hangover story being set in Korea was raised, with the plot centering around 49 million people who wake up in disastrous and confused circumstances in 2018 and have to trace their movements back six years to 2012.

Related Links
Ahn Cheol-Soo
Ken Jeong
Community (TV series)
Senor Chang - Because I'm Korean
The Hangover
Kim Denies Being in Anti-Virus Business
Is Ahn hype at irrational level?
Can Ahn bring substance to fame?
Charles in Charge

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