Ban may head home early to lay campaign groundwork

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Ban may head home early to lay campaign groundwork

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Ban Ki-moon

Former UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon may return home three to four days earlier than expected, according to those close to him, suggesting he may be keeping a close eye on the speedy deliberations of the Constitutional Court on whether to remove President Park Geun-hye from office.

It was initially thought Ban would return home on Jan. 15, but one of his associates, who asked not to be named, said, “It appears Ban will be back three to four days earlier.” Oh Joon, Seoul’s former envoy to the UN and Ban’s close associate, said in a radio interview with YTN that he understood the former top diplomat would come home before mid-January.

Reports on Ban’s potential early return have drawn attention since the Constitutional Court has given signals that it is moving quickly with its trial of the president, and might deliver a ruling by the end of February or at least before March 13, when Justice Lee Jung-mi’s tenure ends.

If the court rules to remove Park from office, a presidential election must be held within 60 days.

If this happens in a month or so, it could complicate Ban’s roadmap to the presidency, as he would have little time to form a support base should he decide to run.

If Ban chooses to run, it remains to be seen which party he would decide to join. He may opt to create his own party if he thinks he can generate enough support for his campaign.

“I think it is feasible that Ban would try to begin his activity (upon his return) without joining any party,” said the former ambassador to UN. “We shouldn’t prejudge which side he would choose at this point.”

Joo Ho-young, floor leader of the tentatively titled New Conservative Party for Reform, which is being formed by 30 Saenuri defectors, did not shy away from expressing his hope Monday that Ban would choose their party, which will be officially launched on Jan. 24 to rival the Saenuri.

“From a logical perspective,” he said in a radio interview with BBS, “(Ban) has to choose our party, as no one can do politics alone.”

BY KANG JIN-KYU, HEO JIN [kang.jinkyu@joongang.co.kr]

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