Former UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said Wednesday that he won't run for South Korea's presidency, a surprise announcement that removes a well-known figure from contention and further stirs the country's already tumultuous politics.
Ban, during a hastily arranged news conference, said he was disappointed by the country's political establishment. He said, without elaborating, that he tried to dedicate himself to resolving a national crisis and achieving unity but his "pure patriotism" and push for political reform were badly damaged by political slander and "fake news" that targeted him.
Politics in South Korea have been upended by a massive scandal that prompted millions to take to the streets in protest, the impeachment of the country's conservative president, Park Geun-hye, and a power handoff to the prime minister.
A court is now deliberating about whether to accept Park's impeachment or restore her to power. If she is thrown out, presidential elections, originally set for December, would instead be held within two months.
Ban had initially generated sizable interest in his home country after a decade in charge of the United Nations and was widely seen as testing the political waters before announcing his candidacy.
But his approval ratings have been falling in opinion surveys on who should succeed Park. Liberal Moon Jae-in, who lost the 2012 election to Park, is the current front-runner.