Ban Ki Moon returns to South Korea, hints at presidency run

Former UN chief Ban Ki Moon waves to his supporters as he leaves after a news conference at the Incheon International Airport in South Korea on Jan 12, 2017.
Former UN chief Ban Ki Moon waves to his supporters as he leaves after a news conference at the Incheon International Airport in South Korea on Jan 12, 2017. PHOTO: REUTERS

SEOUL (AFP) - Retired United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki Moon returned to South Korea on Thursday (Jan 12) as momentum builds around his possible run in elections to succeed impeached President Park Geun Hye.

"I have seriously considered and thought about how I can put my experience and knowledge as a UN Security Council General to best use," Mr Ban said in televised remarks after his arrival.

Speaking before a crowd of hundreds at Incheon International Airport, Mr Ban said he was prepared to meet with the public this week before making a "selfless decision".

Mr Ban's return comes at a time of national uncertainty with tens of thousands of people marching in weekly protests demanding the permanent removal of scandal-hit Park, who was impeached by parliament last month over a corruption scandal.

If the Constitutional Court upholds the parliamentary vote, Ms Park will be permanently removed and elections held within 60 days.

"It breaks my heart," said Mr Ban, referring to the ongoing political turmoil.

"We must never forget the people's desire that was expressed on the streets."

A career diplomat, Mr Ban never joined any South Korean political party, although he served as foreign minister under the late liberal president Roh Moo Hyun from 2004 to 2006.

It remains unclear whether Mr Ban will join Ms Park's ruling Saenuri Party or the emerging conservative party.

Saenuri Party floor leader Chung Woo Taik "sincerely" welcomed Mr Ban's return through a Facebook post on Thursday (Jan 12), calling him "the pride and national asset of South Korea".

The former UN secretary general has a 20.3 per cent approval rating according to a poll released Thursday (Jan 12).

Further troubling his political aspirations, Mr Ban's younger brother and nephew were indicted in a US court this week over an alleged attempt to bribe a Middle Eastern official regarding the sale of a building in Vietnam.

However Mr Ban has denied any involvement, saying he was "perplexed and embarrassed" by the situation.