(Outgoing United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon at a United Nations event. Photo from Yonhap News.)
Ban Ki-moon, outgoing United Nations Secretary-General, came close to announcing a bid for the presidency of South Korea on Tuesday. At a valedictorian meeting of Korean reporters, Ban said, “if what I’ve learned, seen and felt during my 10-year service as secretary-general could help advance the Republic of Korea, I am ready to devote myself to it.” This follows a range of harsh criticisms of the Park administration and is the closest the UN leader has come to formally announcing his candidacy. While discussing the potential for his candidacy, Ban hinted at repairing the political rifts created by the Choi Soon-sil scandal, saying “you can’t do politics all by yourself.”
Domestic leaders, however, are uncertain of what to make of Ban Ki-moon as a potential presidential candidate. Choi Mi-ae, leader of the main opposition party, demurred Ban’s possible candidacy in strong terms. The minor opposition party – the People’s Party – has shown interest in Ban as a candidate. No matter which party he decides to run in, Ban’s candidacy would enhance the possibility of an opposition party winning the presidency. On December 26, Saenuri party floor leader Chung Woo-taik said Ban was unlikely to join the opposition block, hinting at an attempt to draw the world leader into the Saenuri Party. Chung continued by arguing that the Saenuri Party would not lose to its dissenters if they were able to attract Ban to the Saenuri ticket.
Ban Ki-moon will end his tenure as UN Secretary-General on January 1, returning to Korea around January 15. According to reports, he will pursue creating a political coalition to further the interests of the Republic of Korea. This may mean Ban will create his own political party ahead of the presidential race in 2017. No matter how Ban enters the race, if he decides to, his candidacy will draw attention and may propel a new conservative party, the opposition, or a new ruling party to the Blue House.
(Post updated with links and more recent reporting as of 12/26/2016.)