Ban Ki-moon, former secretary-general of the United Nations and a potential candidate for the upcoming presidential election here, will take time to decide whether to create a new party or join one of the existing entities.
The former UN official, set to return home Thursday afternoon, will first place priority on taking in the public sentiment, based on which he will confirm his political road map at around the end of the month, his spokesperson said Thursday.
Ban, however, will take no delay in speaking against the recently raised bribery allegations claiming he received kickbacks from a businessman.
“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 audience to the public sentiment.”
The press briefing, the first of its 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 Ban, hinting 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 Saenuri Party.
But in the wake of the extensive corruption scandal that has led to President Park Geun-hye’s impeachment and the fall of the pro-Park clique, speculations have been growing as to Ban’s alternative choices -- such as forming 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 Thursday, Ban’s support 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 the former UN top official, wishes to minimize formalities during official events.
“We earlier suggested 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 a former foreign minister and UN top official, is subject to 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 Thursday.
The date of his return is in line with the presidential election, which 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
Ban‘s speech upon arrival is expected to include a stern denial of the bribery allegations whirling around himself and family members. While his brother and nephew were indicted in the US for taking bribes, Seoul-based weekly magazine Sisa Journal earlier claimed that Ban received $230,000 from a businessman.
“(Ban) has repeatedly explained that the allegations are not true, but may verbalize his stance once and for all 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 a 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.