The Ban brouhahaUnited Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon did not shy away from rumors about his running for president next year. While staving off any definitive reply, he nevertheless stressed that the next leader of the nation must be someone who can unite the country. “The next leader must be someone who pledges grand unity and offers to stake everything to unite the nation,” he said.
Ban said he would think about what he can do to contribute to his country when he returns home after completing his second term as the UN chief. He couldn’t be totally direct. But his tone has significantly changed. His comments come at a time when the ruling party is unabashedly begging him to run for president while the opposition frets over that kind of popularity contest. Even Ban’s plea for his comments not to be misinterpreted can be misunderstood by some.
Ban is right to criticize the politics of division and to call for more political unity. The fact that his name is mentioned as a formidable contender for the presidency underscores the barrenness of our contemporary politics. The public’s disgust and apathy toward mainstream politicians have forced it to look to someone outside. The upsurge of Ban may actually help bring fresh air to the political scene. His 10-year service in the UN could also bring sophistication to policies on foreign affairs and North Korea. Still, many are skeptical of Ban’s political leadership. All the hype may prove illusory, as the career diplomat has never actually experienced the fiercely competitive political world.
Ban’s ability to skillfully navigate through a factional political environment and combat economic and social issues would be incessantly tested and questioned. He also lacks a political force to unite a country divided by regions and ideology.
Whether he runs as a candidate for the ruling or opposition party, Ban must first be tested in party primaries. He will undoubtedly find that politics is not as easy as he thought. There are still 17 months left before the presidential campaign. The heat is already on, with former opposition leader Sohn Hak-kyu returning to the political scene and Ban’s name added to the candidate list.
Ruling party members loyal to President Park Geun-hye are busy courting Ban instead of taking responsibility for its last parliamentary election defeat and for causing a rift in their party. The opposition is already preparing a mudslinging campaign. Ban has seven months left in his UN position. Politicians should turn their attention to more urgent tasks on the economic and security fronts.
JoongAng Ilbo, May 27, Page 30