Former United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, who had been lagging in South Korea polls, announced his decision to quit the presidential race on Wednesday. File Photo by Dennis Van Tine/UPI | License Photo
Feb. 1 (UPI) -- He was initially hesitant to run in South Korea's presidential race, but when Ban Ki-moon withdrew his bid on Wednesday, the decision took his rivals by surprise.
The former U.N. secretary-general, who was often seen as the conservative candidate, said "fake news" was to blame for the scathing criticism of his campaign, the BBC reported.
Ban told reporters he had been the target of "malign slander akin to character assassination" and that his main goal was national unity.
"With all kinds of fake news, my intention for political change was nowhere to be seen and all that was left was grave scars to my family and myself, and to the honor of the U.N. where I spent the past 10 years," he said.
Ban's relatives had been linked to corruption charges.
Ban also denounced fellow South Korea politicians, calling them "old-fashioned, narrow-minded."
"I came to a conclusion that it would be meaningless to work together with them."
The former South Korea foreign minister's decision shocked people across the nation. Even rival candidates could not hide their disbelief.
Moon Jae-in, the leading presidential candidate from South Korea's opposition, said he expected "good competition" from Ban, and that he is "sorry" to hear his rival is quitting the race, local news service Newsis reported.
"Even if he is not in politics, there are many ways [Ban] can contribute to [the country], in the field of diplomacy," Moon said, referring to Ban's decades-long career in Seoul's foreign ministry and his 10 years as U.N. chief.
Moon said he would seek advice and cooperation from Ban when necessary.
Ruling party lawmaker Na Kyung-won said Ban's move is "a pity" but may be the better decision, EDaily reported.
It is unclear who will replace Ban from the ruling party.
Ban had been behind Moon, the front-runner, in the polls.