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As approval sinks, Ban rejects bribery allegations

Jan 24,2017
Former UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon put in an all-out effort to refute bribery allegations that he took $230,000 from a local businessman over two occasions in 2005 and 2007 as his approval rating remained in second place despite his return to the country and a promotion tour.

Former Saenuri lawmaker Park Min-sik, who acts as a virtual spokesman for the 72-year-old lifelong diplomat, held a press conference at the National Assembly on Monday, denying charges that Ban had taken the money from Park Yeon-cha, former chairman of the Taekwang Company who was convicted of bribery in a separate case.

In an attempt to prove Ban’s innocence, Park disclosed his diary, in which the former foreign minister harshly criticized the businessman for acting “so rude.”

Park first refuted a report by the Sisa Journal which said Ban and Park had met at Ban’s residence on May 3 in 2005 one hour before a scheduled welcome dinner for the Vietnamese foreign minister who was visiting Seoul at the time. The report said Ban received $200,000 in a shopping bag during that time prior to the dinner gathering.

“But Ban arrived at his residence for the dinner event around 6:30 or 40 p.m., just before the dinner was about to begin,” said Park, citing Ban’s earlier schedule that day that allegedly ended past 6 p.m.

Former Taekwang chairman Park is a well-known figure in South Korea, rather infamously. He was at the heart of a corruption scandal implicating family members of former late President Roh Moo-hyun in the late-2000s. Park’s alleged bribing of relatives of the former president led to the death of Roh, who committed suicide amid an investigation in 2009.

In a further attempt to discredit the Sisa report, the former lawmaker also disclosed Ban’s journal from the following day, in which he bashed the businessman for the lack of respect for others during the meeting the day before.

“He was demanding others take shots even though they didn’t want to and kept his voice out loud the whole time, ruining the mood. He was just blatantly rude,” said Ban in the journal. Park said Ban would not have described the businessman with such disapproval had he really taken the money from him.

The Sisa also reported Park had delivered $30,000 through a Korean owner of a restaurant in New York frequented by Ban in early 2007, shortly after Ban was elected to the post of UN chief. Park did not address that allegation on Monday.

Ban’s attempt to refute the allegations came as his approval rating for the upcoming presidential election showed no sign of moving up despite his national promotion tour.

Ban ranked second with 19.8 percent, 2.4 percent down from a week before, while frontrunner Moon Jae-in of the Democratic Party earned 29.1 percent, up by 3 percent, according to a poll conducted by Realmeter.

The poll surveyed 2,520 adults nationwide Monday through Friday. Lackluster support for Ban has elicited questions over whether he has what it takes to win the race. In an apparent reference to Ban’s weaker-than-expected approval ratings, former People’s Party chairman Ahn Cheol-soo, also a presidential hopeful, predicted Ban will drop out of the race after tasting the bitterness of hard politics following the Lunar New Year’s holidays.

BY KANG JIN-KYU [kang.jinkyu@joongang.co.kr]


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