Photos of “Ahn Cheol-soo the physician” -- appearing in sweaty blue medical scrubs at a hospital in the virus-hit city of Daegu -- appear to have won the hearts of many who might not have supported him as a politician.
Ahn, a medical doctor and entrepreneur before he turned to politics, continued his volunteer work for a second day on Monday at Keimyung University Daegu Dongsan Hospital to treat incoming patients who may have been exposed to COVID-19.
Ahn and his wife, Kim Mi-kyung, who is currently a professor at the Seoul National University College of Medicine, were among 58 medical doctors who volunteered to work in the city suffering a shortage of resources, as part of a government team to contain the spread of the virus.
The country’s fourth-largest city, Daegu reported 3,082 cases of COVID-19 -- over 73 percent of the nationwide total of 4,212 -- as of Monday morning, when a regional breakdown was last available. Later in the afternoon, the national total had risen to 4,335.
In late February, Ahn created a new political party and pledged to present a “pragmatic and centrist” way forward for Korea, only to be met with lukewarm response from colleagues in politics and voters.
But images of Ahn wearing a hazmat suit and bearing deep marks on his face from safety eyewear drew praise, going viral via social media.
“We belong to different political parties, but I pay respect to Ahn’s heroic work,” Lee Jun-seok, a Supreme Council member of the United Future Party, commented.
In a statement on Sunday, Ahn urged the government to take full responsibility for mishandling the coronavirus crisis, questioning whether it had learned anything from the lessons of previous disasters such as the sinking of the Sewol ferry in 2014, which killed 304 people, and former outbreaks of SARS and MERS.
With a string of donations from the private sector and medical volunteers, people here are building up hope that had been shattered by the government, he added.
Born in 1962 in Busan, Ahn attended the country’s prestigious Seoul National University College of Medicine. He then became a legendary information technology guru, setting up Korea’s No. 1 anti-virus software firm Ahn Lab, and served as head professor at Dankook University Medical College and as a professor at Seoul National University, before jumping into politics in 2012.
By Park Han-na (email@example.com