Ban’s time to come cleanAs soon as UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon made public his intention to run for the presidency, he has been swept up in an alleged bribery scandal. A local journal reported that Ban received kickbacks of $230,000 from Park Yeon-cha, a former CEO of Busan-based company Taekwang, who was indicted in 2004 on allegations of having offered bribes to high-ranking public officials including former President Roh Moo-hyun. Ban strongly denied the report and claimed he has never met Park. The main opposition Minjoo Party demanded a prosecution probe of the allegation. Ban, who is an early front-runner among potential contestants for the presidency in opinion polls, has come under scrutiny.
All presidential candidates are embroiled in one scandal or another. Ban’s nephew was tried for a scam using his uncle’s name and was ordered by a court to pay damages of $590,000. Ban also had a close relationship with Sung Wan-jong, the former chairman of Keangnam Enterprises, who committed suicide after leaving a note listing names of politicians close to President Park Geun-hye he paid large amounts to.
Upon returning home next month after completing his term with the United Nations, Ban will have to answer these questions frankly if he is serious about running in the presidential race. The country is still reeling from political unrest stirred by the incredible dishonesty of our current president. Transparency and ethical standards have become top qualifications for president-hopefuls. Instead of flatly denying the allegation without further explanation — as the incumbent president has repeatedly done — Ban should faithfully and clearly answer all the allegations against him.
It is essential for Ban to come clear about any shadowy past he and the people around him were involved with. The country is at a turning point to restore stability on the economic and security fronts. Ban must specifically declare the vision he has for the country.
Ban must also keep himself distant from political manipulation and show his capabilities in domestic affairs since his public life has been almost entirely devoted to foreign affairs. Heading an international organization and a country are entirely different. Ban must show that he is fit to run this country. The ruling Saenuri Party and opposition People’s Party, which are eagerly wooing him, must play fair. They could face a public backlash if they just try to exploit his high-profile and credentials.
All the allegations against Ban should be based on factual and reasonable grounds. Reckless rumors could contaminate an election crucial to restoring the country’s dignity and shaping its future. Ban is an international statesman. Groundless defamation could hurt not only his name but the country’s.
JoongAng Ilbo, Dec. 26, Page 34.