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(EDITORIAL from Korea JoongAng Daily on Jan. 24)

All News 07:02 January 24, 2017

A subtle nuance

As the trial over President Park Geun-hye's impeachment for her abuse of power speeds up at the Constitutional Court, a presidential race is heating up too. Following declarations of presidential bids by South Chungcheong Gov. An Hee-jung, Seongnam city Mayor Lee Jae-myung and Bareun Party lawmaker Yoo Seong-min, the main opposition Democratic Party plans to kick off registration of presidential contenders for the nomination race — ahead of the Lunar New Year holidays.

In such circumstances, rumors are spreading fast that Prime Minister Hwang Kyo-ahn, who currently serves as acting president, will run for president. Some pundits guess he would run for president given the remarks he has made so far, while others say he is simply pressured to run for president in the void of a strong candidate from the ruling camp even though he does not want to. Whatever the case, a public call for his candidacy is gaining momentum in the weekly rallies which conservative groups have been staging as a protest against Park's impeachment.

Asked at Monday's press conference if he would run for president, Hwang said, "News reports about my popularity as a potential presidential contender are not directly related to me. Now is not the time to think about things other than stabilizing the government after overcoming the current crisis as the interim leader." But his remarks are in contrast with what he said at the National Assembly earlier. At the time, he flatly denied the possibility of running for president by saying, "I don't consider it." His use yesterday of such adverbs as "directly" or "now" also gives a different nuance because it suggests that he could run for president if current circumstances change in the future.

But if Hwang runs for president, it would not make sense at all. The first job of an acting president is electing a new president in accordance with the Constitution. If a controversy arises over the neutrality of a presidential election, it would lead to a national disaster.

If Hwang plays the role of a presidential contender instead of a referee for the race, our society will suffer unheard-of confusion and chaos. There is another concern too. We wonder if Yoo could really deal with not only economic affairs, but also security, foreign and diplomatic affairs as well.

Of course, Hwang has a right to be elected as president. But now is not the time. He must first stabilize the nation after Park's impeachment and justly manage the next presidential election. That's his last mission as acting president.

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