Tycoon’s son says father, Ban were ‘close’

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Tycoon’s son says father, Ban were ‘close’

The son of late businessman Sung Wan-jong supported prominent suspicions in a recent interview that United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon had previously met with his father multiple times in Korea.

Secretary-General Ban returned to the country on Monday for a five-day stay amid allegations his family members deceived Keangnam Enterprises, where Sung was the former chairman, and its creditors while looking for potential buyers for a building in Hanoi.

Ban’s nephew, Bahn Joo-hyun, allegedly purported that the Qatar Investment Authority (QIA), the country’s sovereign wealth fund, was interested in buying Keangnam Landmark 72, the tallest building in Vietnam, which was built and owned by Keangnam Enterprises, and dropped his uncle’s name.

The QIA later said it had never been interested in the property.

In a private one-on-one meeting in August 2013 - just a month ahead of the secretary-general’s meeting with the emir of Qatar - Sung Wan-jong is believed to have lobbied Ban about the building, which he was trying to sell in an attempt to relieve the financial strain on the construction company.

Ban came to Korea in August to attend the Chungcheong Forum, a panel established by Sung and on which Ban was an original member, though details about a possible private meeting have so far been unverified.

However, Sung Seung-hun, the late businessman’s son, backed the suspicion in an exclusive interview with JTBC, the broadcasting arm of the Korea JoongAng Daily.

“My father and Ban were close,” he said. “They met every time Ban traveled back to Korea.”

This is the first time Sung has spoken out since his father was found hanged from a tree branch on April 9 on Mount Bukhan in northern Seoul in an incident that subsequently sparked a massive payoff scandal implicating eight major political players in President Park Geun-hye’s inner circle.

At the time, Sung Seung-hun worked at Keangnam Enterprises, where he interacted directly with Bahn. Additionally, Bahn’s father, Ban Ki-sang, the younger brother of the secretary-general, previously worked seven years as a senior adviser for the construction company and was believed to have recommended that the company appoint Colliers International, where Bahn worked as its managing director.

Sung Seung-hun claimed Bahn dropped his uncle’s name.

“Bahn said he could contact several investors in Qatar because Secretary-General Ban was close to the emir, and Keangnam Enterprises believed his statement,” he said. “[Ban Ki-sang] also said that the secretary-general was closer to the emir than to leaders of other nations.”

The younger Sung added that he also suspects Bahn systematically deceived the company by cutting contact between Keangnam Enterprises and the QIA and that he and Ban Ki-sang continued to drop the secretary-general’s name to reassure the company.

“Bahn said that this deal was solely between the secretary-general and the emir of Qatar,” Sung said. “He also said [Keangnam Enterprises] was going to lose it if we tried to approach it in a practical manner.”

BY JUNG JAE-YOON, KIM BONG-MOON [kim.bongmoon@joongang.co.kr]
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