Former UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon returned to South Korea on Thursday as Pyongyang released multiple articles criticizing him as an “absolute pro-American” not fit to run for the South Korean presidency.
“He is… not different from Lee Myung-bak and Park Geun-hye who have plotted the anti-DPRK policies to isolate and crush us,” North Korean outlet DPRK Today wrote on Thursday.
“It is Saenuri’s [Park Geun-hye’s party] plot to bring in the power-thirsty Ban Ki-moon… to accomplish another conservative government during the upcoming South Korean presidential election,” Workers’ Party organ Rodong Sinmun said on the same day.
These were just two recent examples of hundreds of anti-Ban articles and broadcasts by North Korean media, which have criticized Ban as “Washington’s puppet” and a “power hungry mad man.”
The North’s ongoing animosity towards Ban is in huge contrast to more sympathetic coverage he’s received in the past. State media previously urged that he be “recorded in the history of the UN” should he contribute to “easing tension on the Korean peninsula,” NK News reported in June last year.
Three months later, however, North Korea changed tack, citing Ban’s support for UN sanctions against North Korea as a sign he was “parroting the U.S. and South Korea’s voices.”
While Ban has yet to officially announce his intention to run for the presidency, he has been seen as a potential presidential candidate in this year’s election since 2015.
But the ambiguity on whether or not he may run for the top position seemed to have ended on Wednesday, with his press secretary releasing a statement on his plans upon returning to South Korea.
Lee Do-woon told local media that Ban’s plans include a visit to the Seoul National Cemetery to pay respect to former presidents, and to other political hotspots such as former President Roh Mu-hyun’s hometown and Paengmok Port, located close to the site of the 2014 Sewol ferry disaster.
A Seoul-based political pundit said that despite Pyongyang’s hatred towards him, Ban is well qualified to lead inter-Korean relations in the future.
“While North Korea may distrust him, his ten years of diplomatic experience in New York will be his strong suit in facing both the the Pyongyang government and the Trump administration,” Choi Young-il, a professor affiliated with Kyunghee University, told NK News.
“He may be widely regarded as the candidate for the conservative government, but his numerous emphasis on ‘peaceful unification’ differentiates him from traditional South Korean conservatives. He also has experience of working as foreign minister under Roh Moo-hyun’s government – the last South Korean government to hold an inter-Korean Summit in 2007.”
The most recent poll released on Thursday showed that Ban remains in second place behind Moon Jae-in, the Minjoo Party’s leading candidate.
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