SEOUL-- Transition Committee Chairman Ahn Cheol-soo said Wednesday he will not serve in the incoming government's Cabinet, officially withdrawing himself from consideration for the first prime minister of incoming President Yoon Suk-yeol.
Ahn, a key Yoon ally who dropped out of the presidential race to back Yoon, said he decided to stay out of the Cabinet to open up room for Yoon to "unleash his will." Instead, Ahn said he will focus on expanding the support base of the soon-to-be ruling party ahead of June's local elections.
"I determined that after drawing up a blueprint and a direction for a good picture for the next government as chairman of the transition committee, not participating directly in the Cabinet would actually ease the burden (on Yoon)," he told reporters at the transition team's office.
"I came to the conclusion that would be of help to the president-elect in setting the overall direction for state affairs that he plans," he said.
Ahn said he delivered his intent to Yoon on Tuesday, and the president-elect expressed his understanding.
He added he did not recommend any candidates for prime minister but plans to do his best to recommend people for ministerial positions.
Yoon has begun reviewing candidates for the No. 2 political office and is expected to announce his pick as early as early next week.
Given Yoon's emphasis on rescuing small businesses from the COVID-19 crisis, one of the strongest contenders for the job is thought to be former Prime Minister Han Duck-soo.
Han is a trade expert and a former ambassador to the United States.
Considering Yoon's emphasis on promoting national unity, some of the strongest contenders are former Democratic Party leader Kim Han-gil and former Vice Assembly Speaker Park Joo-sun.
Ahn told reporters he plans to take time off to recharge, as campaigning during both the presidential election and last year's Seoul mayor election has taken a toll on him.
Ahn was asked to address speculation he could run for governor of Gyeonggi Province in June or seek the chairmanship of Yoon's People Power Party to use as a stepping stone for another presidential bid in 2027
"(PPP) Chairman Lee Jun-seok's term is until next year. I'm not thinking about that right at this moment," he said, adding he has no interest in the governorship.
When pressed on whether he plans to run for PPP chairman after the end of Lee's term, he said, "One year is a long time from now ... I plan to make a decision on that closer to the time."
Source: Yonhap News Agency