A warning to politicians

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A warning to politicians

I recently discovered an interesting article from years ago while surfing the web. It was from a daily newspaper in 2009 talking about a survey on possible presidential runners for the next election. Park Geun-hye, who was the Grand National Party leader at the time, got the highest rating with 29.1 percent. But what surprised me the most was the person in second place. It was not a veteran politician like Lee Hoi-chang, Chung Mong-joon or Chung Dong-young. It was UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon. Has he ever had presidential ambitions?

Korean politics has been full of twists and turns, and six years seems like six decades. In fact, there was talk in the opposition party to bring in Ban as a presidential candidate. Since it had very little possibility, it never led to anything. Personally, I think it is absurd to have Ban run for president, so I almost forgot about the discussion altogether. It would be unreasonable to bring in an internationally respected leader to get involved in the muddy fights of domestic politics.

But since last year, talk of °∞Ban Ki-moon for president°± has been hovering over politics like a specter. This time, the ruling party, which does not have a presidential hopeful for the next election, is eyeing the possibility. In a New Year°Øs opinion survey, Ban received overwhelming support as a possible presidential runner for the next election. I couldn°Øt help but sigh. Where else in the world do people consider someone not even in the country as the most promising presidential hopeful?

Ban has even released an official statement saying he is not interested in running for president and drew a line between him and Korean politics. Then why was he included in the survey and why keep him in consideration for the presidential election? Ban reportedly showed a bitter smile when he was informed that he once again topped the survey. He must feel understandably awkward.

Popularity does not guarantee political success, as we have seen in the 2012 presidential election, when a popular venture businessman got involved. Ban°Øs support ratings do not reflect an expectation for his political debut. Instead, they are a warning that Korean voters feel great discontent with the current political establishment. Politicians have failed to win the trust of their citizens, and people prefer someone who has never been in politics to be the next leader.

This is abnormal. In the new year, politicians need to wake up and do better.

The author is a political and international news editor of the JoongAng Ilbo.

JoongAng Ilbo, Jan. 9, Page 31

by KIM JUNG-HA

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