Ban Ki-moon dropped his presidential bid on February 1st.  He caught everyone unawares during his hastily-scheduled news conference at 3:30pm (Korea time). Not even Lee Do-woon, Ban’s spokesman, had any idea that he would drop out until Ban started speaking.  The only person who knew in advance was Kim Sook, the former South Korean ambassador to the United Nations, who was running Ban’s campaign.  Noon in Korea will have full coverage of how Ban’s candidacy imploded later.

In this post, however, we will explain how those at the news conference reacted to Ban’s bombshell.  We also provide a translated version of his ‘resignation speech’.  It was ‘Bandemonium’ in the beginning.  It was also Bandemonium at the end.  The press conference was held in the press room of the National Assembly in Yeouido (여의도), which is a rather small room with a very low ceiling.  Some reporters thought the news conference was about Ban forming a new party with his supporters.  Not many expected the bombshell that was about to come out of Ban’s mouth.  Afterwards, Ban did not field any questions.  These reporters are coming out of the press room so they can follow Ban on his way out and coax him into answering some questions:

Mass confusion as Ban bows out. Ban followed by reporters who ask, "When did you decide, did you confer with anyone?"

The hallway outside the press room is jam-packed with reporters holding onto their cameras and camcorders.  They are screaming, “Ouch!” “Stop pushing!” “It’s dangerous, stop pushing.”  “We are falling!”  As Ban comes out, he is asked:

  • “When did you make your decision?” [0:30]
  • “What are the reasons?”  [0:34]
  • “What was the most important factor in your decision?” [0:42]
  • “Did you decide today?” [0:52]
  • “Did you consult your campaign staff?” [0:56]
  • “You decided so suddenly, did you confer with anybody?” [1:00]
  • “You talked about pushing reform just yesterday, what happened?” [1:03]
  • “Secretary General, please, say one word to us!” [1:13]
  • “It was so sudden, did you confer with your campaign staff?” [1:21]

Ban answers one question out of all these (the very last one):  “I decided on my own.” [1:26]   Then there is a huge congestion in a small area where both reporters and Ban are trapped.  Ban’s security guards turn him around and guide him in another direction.  Ban is again asked, “When did you decide?  Didn’t you consult anyone?”  He finally answers, “I decided on my own, this morning.” [1:57]   Those are the only words he uttered after the speech.

Ban cited "character assassination" and "fake news"-- did the going get too tough for this career diplomat?

Here is the speech Ban gave.  As far as Ban’s speeches go, it was rather short and to the point.  Noon in Korea‘s translation of Ban’s speech:

Dear People of Korea,

Thanks to everyone for showing up at this hastily-called news conference. Since coming home on January 12th, I visited various places and talked to people from all walks of life. I’ve also met with leaders in academic and religious communities. All these people have told me that South Korea is facing a crisis on many fronts — political, economic and even with regard to national security — due to its wrongheaded and outdated methods of governance. They’ve all told me that we can no longer ignore or tolerate this.

Furthermore, the Choi Soon-sil gate and subsequent impeachment of President Park have made the country rudderless. While all this is happening, however, political leaders are still focusing on their own narrow interests and not fulfilling their obligation to serve the people who elected them. As a result, Korea’s voters are greatly disillusioned by the political process.

This is what I had worried about in my 10-year stint outside the country. I was a globetrotter during those years and met with the leaders of many countries that were either successful or failures.  That is the real reason why I considered entering politics:  to sacrifice myself and devote my life to saving my own country that is currently in crisis … by recognizing the anger of many Koreans but channeling it to a unified cause of political consensus and a decentralized form of governance. That was my intent all along — that is what motivated me for the last 3 weeks, which was indeed very short.

My motivation was based on my idealistic patriotism; I wanted to effect a political turnaround. However my idealism was met by malicious slander which bordered on character assassination, as well as made-up fake news. These things have directly harmed me, my family and even my honor as former U.N. Secretary General. The people of Korea have also been indirectly wounded by this.

Ban bows out.

I have been deeply disappointed by politicians that continue to display “business as usual” attitudes and embrace their narrowly-defined self-interests. Being on the same path with them, I have concluded, is quite meaningless given the seriousness of the situation. Dear people of Korea, I have decided to drop my presidential bid.  I had intended to achieve national unity and change the country … all this was purely based on my idealism and patriotism.

I want to blame myself, of course, for arriving at this decision. However, in another respect, I would hope that the people of Korea can understand and forgive me for making this decision. Please try to understand my deep reservations in making this difficult decision.

I am so deeply sorry for disappointing those who have supported me, those who gave me warm and constructive advice, and those who have closely worked with me on this campaign. I will take all blame for disappointing you in this manner.

I have not given up on my dreams and visions. However, we should try to abandon this self-centered thinking that it is only up to me or only I should take part in solving the problem  [Here, Ban is not referring to himself but to the politicians that he took to task earlier].  If we want a better future for our children and their children, everyone should do all they can and do so in a manner that quietly reflects their sense of commitment and duty. I will bank on my 10-year tenure as U.N. Secretary General to do all I can to solve the national crisis that we are in. I will do all I can to ensure that the future shines bright for the Republic of Korea. To the people of Korea, as always, I wish you health and happiness.

Thank you very much.

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