A vision firstThe outgoing UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon on Wednesday made it clear that he would run for president in Korea. In a conversation with Korean correspondents in New York, he said, “I will do my best to help develop Korea as the people are angry and frustrated at the lack of good governance.” Stressing that tension is rapidly escalating on the Korean Peninsula more than ever before, he said that he would be the best candidate to address a national crisis Korea faces after the impeachment on Dec. 9 of President Park Geun-hye over an unprecedented abuse of power and influence-peddling scandal involving the president and her longtime friend Choi Soon-sil.
It is rare for a UN Secretary General to announce a bid for president even before his term expires. Some pundits criticize it as an act that can damage the independence of the international organization. Yet Ban rose to stardom in the international community through his sufficient experience and expertise in diplomacy. Such diverse experience could help him run the country smoothly when we take into account the interconnection of domestic policies and global affairs.
From that perspective, there is no reason for the people to criticize or oppose Ban’s determination to run for president. His high popularity which is nearly on par with former opposition leader Moon Jae-in, the current frontrunner in the polls, even before he kicks off a full-fledged campaign, well reflects the public’s high expectations for his strong points as a head of state.
Nevertheless, Ban must get over many obstacles if he really wants to reassure the people of his political leadership and contribute to the development of such outmoded politics in Korea. He was able to become UN Secretary General after serving as minister of diplomacy in the liberal Roh Moo-hyun administration, but now he has emerged as a presidential hopeful most likely representing the conservative camp. Secretary General Ban must answer about the sudden makeover. If he seeks a regional coalition based on his overwhelming support from the Chungcheong provinces — his home ground — that is a miscalculation.
Korean politics has been suffering from the deep division rooted in regionalism for decades. Ban must demonstrate a fresh and creative vision to put such retrogressive politics back on track. In addition, he also awaits a harsh assessment of his performance as the UN leader soon.
Korea is undergoing an unprecedented crisis. We will closely watch to see what kind of choice he will make down the road. But one thing clear is this: If he cannot show his mature philosophy and a grand vision for the troubled nation — instead of his global reputation — he will surely fail in his bid for the presidency.
JoongAng Ilbo, Dec. 23, Page 30