Ban Ki-moon denies any presidential ambitions

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Ban Ki-moon denies any presidential ambitions

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Ban Ki-moon delivers a speech in Vienna on Tuesday. [AP/NEWSIS]


The office of the United Nations secretary general issued a statement yesterday saying that Ban Ki-moon is not planning to run for president in 2017 and that he isn’t even interested in South Korean politics.

The statement, made public by Korea’s Permanent Mission to the UN after being released by Ban’s office, was his first comment on rampant rumors fanned by local politicians about a possible presidential bid.

“There are [local] reports that imply Secretary General Ban is interested in domestic politics. But Ban is not aware of [ongoing political issues in Seoul],” the statement said. “It should be strictly pointed out that it is simply not true.” The statement added that the rumors and news reports will not be helpful to Ban in his current job as the top man at the UN.

“We sincerely plead [with the press] to refrain from publishing domestic political stories linking Ban [to a presidential run], including running opinion poll results for possible candidates [with Ban included].”

Ban topped an opinion poll of possible presidential candidates conducted by Hangil Research on Oct. 17 and 18, which received heavy coverage.

The official denial from Ban yesterday came amid the wave of rumors that the diplomat may opt to run for the presidency in 2017, a year after he steps down from his position.

The 70-year-old Ban’s possible moves after completing two five-year terms as the UN chief in 2016 have drawn interest because he’s considered a promising candidate for either the conservative ruling party or the liberal opposition.

Ban’s roots in North Chungcheong are also seen as a potential advantage over other potential hopefuls because the Chungcheong provinces are free from the deep regional divisions that divide the Jeolla and Gyeongsang provinces.

The opposition New Politics Alliance for Democracy (NPAD) has hoped that Ban will choose it over the Saenuri because Ban was appointed foreign minister by former President Roh Moo-hyun, which helped him get the UN post.

Senior NPAD members claimed they were asked by Ban’s associates if he could run for the presidency representing the NPAD, a claim denied by Ban’s statement yesterday.

Senior figures from the opposition have refused to reveal the identities of Ban’s associates.

Ban’s relatives also deny that any of his associates are putting out feelers in Korea’s political circles and say they are even considering filing a lawsuit for defamation.

“My brother phoned me and told me that I should not be swayed [by such speculation]. His firm stance now is that he will not be involved in [domestic politics],” said one of his younger brothers, Ban Ki-ho.

“Ban stayed quiet because he knew it would only stir up more controversy once he responded,” said another brother, Ki-sang. “Some news reports said I was also considering a career in politics. My brother and I have no interest in it.”

Though Ban is widely respected in Korea for leading the world’s largest multinational organization over the past eight years, a feat that many here associate with national pride, the 70-year-old is not entirely free from criticism that he lacks the leadership to be president and comes across as heavily scripted and overly cautious.

Another hurdle he may have to overcome is his age. Born in 1944, Ban will be 74 if he pulls off a presidential victory in 2017 and 79 at the completion of a five-year term.

BY KANG JIN-KYU, KANG TAE-HWA [jkkang2@joongang.co.kr]

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