Ban to return to Korea as soon as UN job ends

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Ban to return to Korea as soon as UN job ends

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon met the Korean National Assembly speaker and ruling and opposition party floor leaders in New York and declared his intention to return to his home country shortly after his UN tenure finishes at the end of the year.

Ban met with parliamentary speaker Chung Sye-kyun and floor leaders of the three major parties - the Saenuri’s Rep. Chung Jin-suk, Minjoo’s Rep. Woo Sang-ho and People’s Party’s Rep. Park Jie-won - at his UN office on Friday.

“I expect to return [to Korea] before mid-January,” Ban said to the parliamentary delegation, as political analysts speculated on whether he will run for president in 2017.

There initially was speculation that Ban would not return straight home after his second five-year term as UN chief comes to a close on Dec. 31, and that he might spend up to three months in the United States.

In a phone interview with the JoongAng Ilbo on Sunday, Saenuri Party Floor Leader Chung elaborated on the meeting with Ban. He said Ban told him, “It would be good if you report to the people when you return to Korea in January.”

Ban allegedly replied, “Such an opportunity would be good.”

“I got the feeling he will not register with a political party or declare a presidential bid immediately after returning,” the four-term lawmaker continued. “If Secretary-General Ban had the intent of taking on a presidential bid, I would think he would spend more time meeting with people all across the board because he spent 10 years away.”

Chung added that next year’s presidential candidates will need to address three main issues: employment, polarization of society and the aging of Korea’s population. “Secretary-General Ban, who has worked on resolving these conflicts on a global scale, may propose better solutions than what we have now, and there are people who look forward to this.”

Ban, a former foreign minister who hails from North Chungcheong, has consistently led in domestic polls on the most popular presidential contenders.

Opposition lawmakers interpreted Ban’s remarks as his intent to take part in the presidential race as a ruling party candidate.

Minjoo Party Floor Leader Woo told reporters at the airport on his return Sunday, “When Floor Leader Chung Jin-suk suggested a presidential bid to Secretary-General Ban, he did not refuse it. He said he intends to return quickly before mid-January and that he will actively make contact with people, so I see this as him having set his mind.”

“I got the feeling he wanted to return to Korea as soon as possible after his tenure ends on Dec. 31,” said Park, who also serves as People’s Party’s interim leader, to reporters in New York on Friday after the meeting. He added that Ban said that as soon as he returned, he would meet with President Park Geun-hye, the speaker of the National Assembly, chief justice of the Supreme Court and the heads of the three parties, asking them for their “cooperation.”

Conservative politician Kim Jong-pil, a two-time former prime minister, conveyed to Ban through Saenuri Floor Leader Chung that he “will put all his last energy” into helping the UN chief. Ban visited Kim, also a Chungcheong native, at his residence in May.

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