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Ban Ki-moon's South Korea visit fuels talk he may run for president

Ban would bring his international background to the South Korean presidency but his family involvement with a fallen South Korean business executive is stoking debate.

By
Elizabeth Shim
U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon is on a five-day visit to South Korea. Files Photo by Debbie Hill/UPI
U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon is on a five-day visit to South Korea. Files Photo by Debbie Hill/UPI | License Photo

SEOUL, May 18 (UPI) -- U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon arrived in his homeland of South Korea on Monday, prompting speculation over a potential 2017 presidential bid and his possible connections to a late South Korean businessman.

Ban, who served as South Korea's foreign minister from 2004 to 2006, attended the World Education Forum in Incheon, the Korea Herald reported. During his five-day visit, Ban is expected to meet with South Korean President Park Geun-hye and other top officials in Seoul.

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Analysts said Ban is more likely to run for president on behalf of the governing Saenuri Party, as the opposition has a good number of candidates who could run in 2017, including party Chairman Moon Jae-in and Seoul Mayor Park Won-soon.

Ban would also bring his international background to the South Korean presidency, and according to Chung-Ang University politics professor Choi Young-jin, the mild-mannered Ban could be well received in a presidential race.

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"Not many hate him," Choi said.

But Ban's rare visit to South Korea has fueled speculation about the U.N. Secretary-General's ties to a South Korean business executive.

In April, Sung Wan-jong of Keangnam Enterprises committed suicide after being accused of creating a multimillion-dollar slush fund using government loans.

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South Korean television network JTBC reported Ban has been indirectly linked to business dealings between his nephew, Bahn Joo-hyun, and executives at Keangnam. Ban also met with the late Sung a month before he met with Qatari monarch Sheik Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani at the United Nations in September 2013.

Sheik Tamim heads the Qatar Investment Authority board of directors.

In emails obtained by JTBC, Ban's nephew Bahn Joo-hyun said to a contact at Keangnam that he would invite his high-profile uncle to a social gathering, where members of the Qatar Investment Authority would be present. QIA has since denied any involvement with Keangnam – and said it was not interested in the purchase of a Keangnam building in Hanoi, Vietnam.

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Ban Ki-sang, the brother of Ban Ki-moon, also worked for Keangnam as a senior adviser for seven years, and recommended his son's firm as the broker for the sale of the Hanoi building, reported South Korean newspaper Joongang Daily.

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