Former U.N. chief Ban Ki-moon, once considered front-runner to be the next South Korean president, ruled out a run for the job on Wednesday, saying he was "disappointed at the selfish ways" of some politicians and complaining of "fake news".
Ban told reporters at parliament, after meeting conservative party leaders, that he had been subject to "malign slander akin to character assassination" in the media and had given up his "patriotic" plan to lead political change.
"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 honour of the U.N., where I spent the past 10 years," he said.
South Korea has been gripped by political crisis for months amid a corruption scandal that led to the impeachment of President Park Geun-hye. If the impeachment vote is upheld by the Constitutional Court, she will have to quit and an election would be held two months later.
A ruling is expected as soon as late this month.
Ban, 72, returned to South Korea on Jan. 12 after serving 10 years as U.N. secretary-general. He was unable to capitalise on his much-anticipated homecoming, cutting a sometimes-irritable figure in public and mired in a series of perceived PR gaffes and a scandal involving family members.
The media leapt on a series of minor blunders, for instance when he took the airport express train instead of a limo on his return to South Korea, but didn't know how to buy a ticket.
Two days later, Ban visited a care home where he fed porridge to an old woman. He was criticized for wearing a bib when the old woman was not - and for feeding someone lying flat on their back.
Even without announcing his intention to run, his support ratings in opinion polls had slipped to second place behind the presidential candidate for the main opposition Democratic Party, Moon Jae-in, after peaking at nearly 30 percent last year.
Ban had been expected to run as a conservative but was unable to secure any party affiliation.