(EDITORIAL from Korea Times on March 16)
Hwang's right decision
Prime Minister Hwang Kyo-ahn announced he will not run for president in the election slated for May during a Cabinet meeting Wednesday. During the meeting, the Cabinet also announced that the presidential election to choose the successor of Park Geun-hye, the impeached former president, will be held May 9.
The announcement put an end to swirling speculation that Hwang, who is serving as acting president, may run for the top elected office. His decision is right and desirable in every respect.
More than anything, his candidacy was in doubt, considering that he should share the responsibility for the total failure of the Park administration. On top of concerns about an administrative vacuum arising from his bid for the presidency, he deserved the criticism that "the referee is trying to play in the game."
Hwang has been leading opinion polls among potential conservative candidates. Supporters of the disgraced former president, in particular, have been pleading with him to run for president. Yet mentioning him as a presidential contender went against common sense, even though there was no proper figure to represent the conservative sector.
In the run-up to his abandonment of a presidential bid, Hwang aroused plenty of speculation. On Tuesday, he didn't designate the presidential election date, contrary to popular belief. He also turned down resignations offered en masse by top Cheong Wa Dae officials on the same day, saying the grave situation in national security and the economy must be considered.
So, speculation was rife that Hwang's bizarre moves might have something to do with his presidential ambitions. He may have been putting off designating the election date because he had yet to make up his mind. And he may have decided to retain all presidential aides to ensure no gaps in state affairs after he quit.
We are in an emergency situation in the aftermath of the unprecedented presidential impeachment. Economic and national security challenges are formidable enough.
Against this backdrop, Hwang rightfully decided not to bid for the presidency. He is tasked with minimizing the void in state affairs and administering the upcoming presidential election strictly as the acting president.