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(LEAD) Ban to return to S. Korea on Jan. 12

All News 18:00 January 04, 2017

(ATTN: ADDS details in last 3 paras)

SEOUL/NEW YORK, Jan. 4 (Yonhap) -- Former U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said Tuesday he will return to South Korea next week, a homecoming that is expected to be watched closely as he has declared his desire to run for president of the country.

Speaking to South Korean correspondents as he left the U.N. secretary-general's residence in New York, Ban said he is scheduled to arrive in South Korea around 5:30 p.m. on Jan. 12 on an Asiana Airlines flight.

"I will report to the people of my home country how I feel about returning home after successfully accomplishing my duties as secretary-general for the past 10 years, and convey my gratitude," Ban told reporters.

Ban said he had planned to return home on Jan. 15 but moved up the schedule as Jan. 15 falls on Sunday.

Last month, Ban effectively declared his presidential aspirations, saying in a farewell press conference with Korean reporters that he is ready to give his all if it contributes to the development of the country.

Opinion polls have long shown Ban is one of the favorites in this year's presidential election. The election, which was originally scheduled for December, could take place much earlier if the Constitutional Court upholds the impeachment of President Park Geun-hye.

On Tuesday, Ban declined comment on his political plans, such as which political forces he plans to join hands with in seeking his presidential ambitions.

Still, he indirectly suggested he's the right person to lead South Korea.

"What's most desirable is to exchange opinions with a broad group of people," Ban said in response to a question whether he believes a broad political alliance is necessary. He also blamed a "lack of dialogue" for the difficulties South Korea is experiencing.

"As secretary-general, I have met people regardless of their racial, religious and political spectrum," he said. "I will put what I've experience and honed into action in South Korea."

Ban said he did not call President Park Geun-hye as he has done at the start of previous new years because she was impeached. But he said he would call Park if necessary after returning home.

Ban was with Columbia University economist Jeffrey Sachs as he spoke to reporters.

Ban said he exchanged views with Sachs about how to resolve economic difficulties that young and elderly South Korean people are facing. Sachs told reporters Ban has made great contributions to the world and that he's willing to provide Ban with advice in the presidential election.

Sachs is a key architect of the U.N. Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) for global poverty eradication and sustainable development. He once said he was inspired by South Korea's 1970s agricultural reform campaign called Saemaul Movement when he was drawing up the MDGs. The Saemaul Movement was initiated by then-President Park Chung-hee, who is the father of President Park Geun-hye.

Observers said Ban may come up with Korea's version of the MDGs as a key presidential agenda, which would help attract conservative voters by arousing nostalgia for the 1970s, while appealing to the low-income, socially weak electorate with inclusive policies.

Upon arrival in South Korea, Ban is expected to visit the Seoul National Cemetery to pay tribute to the nation's wardead and patriots and may head to his hometown of Eumseong, 131 kilometers south of Seoul, according to those close to him.

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