U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon called Friday for rooting out the practice of spreading unfounded accusations in the name of vetting, flatly rejecting allegations that he took money from a South Korean businessman about a decade ago.
Ban, who has recently declared his desire to run for president of his home country, made the remark to South Korean reporters after issuing a New Year's message at the U.N. headquarters on his last day as U.N. chief.
"I think we have to root out such people who enjoy seeing other people suffering and try to win their own political gains by spreading these rumors," Ban said. "We have to make sure to root out the practice of spreading mysterious allegations in the name of vetting."
Ban spoke in response to a question about allegations raised by a South Korean magazine that he received about US$230,000 from Park Yeon-cha, a scandal-ridden local businessman, on two occasions: in 2005 and 2007.
Ban's office strongly rejected the report as "completely false and groundless." Park also dismissed the report as "nonsense."
A former senior prosecutor, who investigated Park over a bribery scandal, also said he hadn't heard of the allegations.
Ban said he was dumbfounded by the allegations, which he denounced as "absurd and not worth a single thought."
"We should bring an end to the ill practice of seeking one's political gains through slandering," he said.
Ban said he does not intend to evade vetting,
"I agree on the need for vetting. I'm not going to evade it. I will abide by the process," he said. "We should conduct vetting when electing a leader regardless of whether it's about morality, qualifications or policy. That's what I hope for."
But he stressed that he has been thoroughly vetted through 46 years of public service.
"I've gone through all vetting processes except a National Assembly hearing," he said. "The U.N. secretary-general is a post that 7 billion people around the world are watching."
Ban said he became upset and saddened to see the unfounded allegations against him, and emphasized again that unfounded allegations should not be spread in the name of vetting.
"If we continue to do that, we cannot get out of political backwardness," he said.
Ban also said he has seen such malicious political manipulations ahead of presidential elections in the past.
"At that time, I wondered how painful it would be, but now I am feeling that. My family is feeling that. My wife and son are all feeling that," he said. "I have no speck of shame in conscience."
Ban also said everything must be revealed clearly about the allegations against him.
Criticizing anonymous sources cited in the magazine report, Ban said he hopes such people would come forward with what they consider evidence.
"I am always willing to answer," he said. "Truth about my innocence will prevail."