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(LEAD) Ban reiterates presidential ambitions, calls for national integration

All News 18:54 January 12, 2017

(ATTN: ADDS photo, more info from 4th para)

INCHEON, Jan. 12 (Yonhap) -- Former U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon on Thursday reiterated his presidential ambitions, calling for joint efforts to bring together a nation suffering from a slew of economic, security and political challenges.

Upon arriving at Incheon International Airport, west of Seoul, Ban fell short of officially declaring his presidential bid, but he stressed that he would "be with citizens for a change of politics, not for a change of government."

"I have already said that I am ready to give my all (for the country) and my determination remains unchanged," he told a cheering crowd of citizens at the airport.

Former U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon speaks after arriving at Incheon International Airport, west of Seoul, on Jan. 12, 2017. (Yonhap)

Ban, whose second five-year term as the U.N. helmsman ended at the end of last year, has been long bandied about as a formidable presidential candidate, with various recent opinion polls putting him in second place slightly behind Rep. Moon Jae-in, a former leader of the main opposition Democratic Party.

Ban said that from Friday onward he would try to reach out to citizens to listen to their voices before deciding whether to throw his hat into the ring.

"I have long said that I would have opportunities to solicit various opinions from citizens upon my return home, and I will start having such opportunities from tomorrow onward," he said.

"And then, I will, with a humble heart, make a decision without any pursuit of personal gains. It will not take a long time for me to make that decision."

Pointing to the country's problems of income disparity and ideological, regional and generational conflicts as examples of the country being in an "overall crisis," he called for joint efforts to achieve "national integration."

Ban also used the press conference to deny bribery allegations leveled against him.

"Around the time of my return, many stories about me have been circulating in broadcasts and newspapers, but all of them have nothing to do with the truth," Ban said.

"I make it clear once and for all that I have nothing to be ashamed of, as I have served in the Republic of Korea and the United Nations over the past five decades as a public servant for the nation and the world," he added.

A local magazine recently reported that Ban received around US$230,000 from Park Yeon-cha, a local businessman, while serving as South Korea's foreign minister in the 2000s. Ban has called the report ill-founded and threatened to take legal action against the magazine.

Another bribery case involving his brother and nephew has emerged as another dispiriting setback for Ban. Ban has said he was "flabbergasted" about the case, and that he was not aware of it.

Ban also summed up his 10-year role as U.N. chief promoting world peace, fighting poverty and climate change, pursuing gender equality and protecting human rights, apparently underscoring his leadership chops.

Former U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon waves as he arrives at Incheon International Airport, west of Seoul, on Jan. 12, 2017. (Yonhap)

sshluck@yna.co.kr
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