] Ban Ki-moon, former secretary-general of the United Nations and a prominent runner for the upcoming presidential election here, will take some time to decide whether to create a new party or join one of the conventional entities.
The former UN official, who is to return home on Jan. 5, will first place priority on taking in the public sentiment, based on which he will confirm his political roadmap at around the end of the month, his spokesperson said on Jan. 5.
“What (former) Secretary-General Ban wants is to figure out what the people want, and for this he wishes to meet with those from various walks of life, focusing on the socially vulnerable clusters,” said Ban’s spokesperson Lee Do-woon to reporters at a press briefing.
“Right now, it is not yet time to make any political decisions so until the Lunar New Year holiday (at the end of the month), Ban will largely remain a listener to the public sentiment.”
The event, the first of the kind to be held to officially deliver Ban’s stance after the end of his UN tenure, was held in Mapo, where Ban’s aides recently set up a temporary headquarters to prepare for the UN official’s return.
“This is not an official (presidential campaign) camp as they would say in politics, but just a working group assisting Ban,” Lee explained, dismissing speculations on Ban’s imminent steps as a potential presidential candidate.
The spokesman, however, added that his statements officially represent the presidential aspirant, alluding that the current office might lay the groundwork for the upcoming election campaign.
The former top diplomat has long been deemed an unrivaled candidate for the conservative camp, especially the pro-presidential group of the ruling
But in the wake of the extensive corruption scandal which led to President Park Geun-hye’s impeachment and the fall of the pro-Park clique, speculations have been growing on Ban’s alternative choices -- such as forming a solidarity with other political entities or creating a new party of his own.
A number of surveys showed Ban ranks second among presidential hopefuls, next to the main opposition Democratic Party of Korea’s former Chairman Moon Jae-in. In a poll released by R&Search on Jan. 5, Ban’s approval rating stood at 20.3 percent, down 1 percentage point on-week and 12.2 percentage points lower than that of liberal rival Moon.
Ban’s aides also stated that Ban, despite his position as former UN top official, wishes to minimize formalities during official events.
“We earlier suggested a prime ministerial-level security but reduced it significantly, upon Ban’s request,” Lee said, asking for understanding.
“Please note that this (level of security) is not based on personal demands but for the sake of the country and for the UN.”
Ban, as former foreign minister and UN top official, is subject to a high-level protocol by the Foreign Ministry, but disputes persist as the cordial reception may be taken as an unfair favor for the presidential hopeful.
The former UN chief official is to arrive at Incheon Airport at around 5:30 p.m. on Jan. 5.
The presidential election is likely to take place in the second quarter of this year. The timeline will be fixed upon the Constitutional Court’s decision on whether to uphold the impeachment of President Park Geun-hye
Upon his arrival, Ban is also expected to repeat his denials over the bribery allegations involving his brother and nephew, who were recently indicted in the US. The allegations were earlier brought up by the Seoul-based weekly magazine Sisa Journal, against which Ban is considering filing a suit.
“(Ban) has explained several times that the allegations are not true, but may once again announce his stance in front of the (Korean) audience,” the spokesperson said.
Though he is not likely to meet with President Park, whose powers are suspended until the court decision, Ban will pay an official visit to Prime Minister and acting President Hwang Kyo-ahn, as part of the diplomatic procedure, Lee added.
“As former UN secretary-general, Ban is set to meet with the nation’s top three figures,” he said, referring to the acting president, as well as the National Assembly Speaker Chung Sye-kyun and Supreme Court Chief Justice Yang Sung-tae.
By Bae Hyun-jung/The Korea Herald (email@example.com