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(EDITORIAL from The Korea Times on Feb. 3)

All News 07:06 February 03, 2017

Ban's short-lived political career

It is time for a competition of ideas, character

Former U.N. chief Ban Ki-moon has made the right decision by giving up his presidential bid. Ban should never have harbored ambitions for the nation's top elected office since a U.N. rule urges its former leaders to refrain from holding any governmental position immediately after retirement.

For many reasons, it was wrong for him to hastily leap into a career in politics. His announcement to give this up confirmed in many people's minds that Ban just does not have the character to be a responsible statesman, whose key traits are perseverance and self-discipline.

Rather than blaming his incompetence or lack of preparations, he blasted the media for its "fake news" and political slander as he listed the reasons for giving up on his "pure ambition" during an impromptu speech at the National Assembly Wednesday. But it is mainly his fault that he suffered a consistent drop in support in polls because his actions since is Jan. 12 arrival in Korea have only shown his shortcomings as a political novice, which resulted in an image of incompetence and dishonesty.

It is the media's job to closely monitor potential presidential candidates and report on any irregularities. More than ever before, there is high emphasis on the need to properly verify candidates' backgrounds, and the media's role in this regard is crucial. The media was simply doing its job by asking whether Ban knew about his relatives' business irregularities, or whether he himself received bribes in the past from businessmen. Ban only distanced himself from the corruption allegations by saying he didn't know. He seemed to be unaware that in light of the long-running corruption scandal that has led to a presidential impeachment, Koreans expect a higher degree of ethics and responsibility from politicians and presidential candidates.

Ban is also an unfit candidate to address the grave economic hardships faced by many Koreans. During a lecture last month, he told young people who don't have jobs to go out into the world and do some "volunteering." This kind of advice, which lacks a sense of reality, gave the impression that he has no idea of the problems that young people in Korea face these days. He also failed to present a specific vision to take Korea's economy to the next level, such as preparing for the 4th Industrial Revolution.

The career diplomat sought to differentiate himself by stressing that he is able to speak English during a recent conference at the Press Center, lamenting that Korea has never had a President who is able to communicate with foreign leaders without a translator. Speaking English is important for leaders in any field, but it is not a core ability that Koreans look for in a president.

After Ban's departure, the race for Cheong Wa Dae will heat up among the remaining presidential hopefuls. Now is the time for them to compete with ideas to advance Korea's economy and restore hope in the country's young people with more jobs, better education and the promotion of social justice.

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