A well-deserved slap down

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A well-deserved slap down

UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon was the top choice to be the next president of Korea in a recent opinion poll. He was named by 39.7 percent of those surveyed, well ahead of Seoul Mayor Park Won-soon (13.5 percent), Moon Jae-in (9.3 percent) of the main opposition New Politics Alliance for Democracy, who lost to President Park Geun-hye, and Saenuri Party head Kim Moo-sung (4.9 percent).

The sudden political rise of the career statesman is a shameful message to politicians. The UN chief is hardly ever in Korea and has never showed any interest in getting into politics or running for president. Yet he is the public’s favorite. The outcome reflects not only the unassailable personal merits of Ban, but the public’s apathy toward domestic political figures. Ban has been praised for his balanced leadership and view on world affairs as head of the United Nations, along with his genteel and modest nature and behavior. Whether he could govern domestic affairs as well as global affairs is unknown. Whether he has such aspirations also is unknown. Whether he could survive on the cruel stage of national politics is questionable.

What’s behind Ban’s poll popularity is disillusionment and disappointment toward mainstream politicians. The Seoul mayor’s image was stained after close aides were found to have been receiving monthly lecturer payments from Seoul City University, even though they no longer taught there. Moon put his own party and the legislature in an awkward position when he publicly sided with the families of Sewol ferry victims after the ruling and opposition parties reached a deal on special legislation. Such behavior by a key member of the main opposition and former presidential candidate was irresponsible. As head of the ruling party, Kim suggested a constitutional amendment to change the single five-year presidential term without consulting his party or president.

The public cannot but question if any of them can be trusted, and they chose the comparatively clean Ban. It is the same phenomenon we saw with technology entrepreneur Ahn Cheol-soo as Seoul mayor and presidential candidate.

Ban’s popularity should bring chagrin to the faces of politicians.

JoongAng Ilbo, Oct. 22, Page 30

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