After having served as secretary general of the United Nations for 10 years, Ban Ki-moon has finally returned to his home country, which has been engulfed by political turmoil in recent months.
Will his track record as UN chief work in his favour if runs for president of his country?
Well, the answer may be twofold. Over the past decade, the international community has had a rather mediocre opinion of Ban, not least due to his being indecisive and low-profile when it comes to crisis management. In comparison, many think his predecessor, Kofi Annan, did a much better job of co-coordinating multilateral efforts and dealing with international crises.
To make things worse, it was during Ban’s term that the UN faced one international crisis after another such as the outbreak of the Syrian civil war, the rise of ISIS, the refugee crisis across Europe, as well as the civil wars in South Sudan, Yemen and Sri Lanka.
Many diplomatic experts have criticized Ban for having failed to facilitate a consensus among great powers such as the US, Russia and China on these issues and co-ordinate international efforts to respond to these humanitarian crises.
Worse still, the UN peacekeeping force was plagued by scandals on his watch, such as the numerous rape cases against women committed by UN peacekeepers in central Africa and the outbreak of cholera in Haiti which was believed to have been transmitted to the country through the peacekeeping force.
But so far, the UN has neither reprimanded those who were involved nor apologized for their wrongdoing.
However, despite the fact that Ban was sluggish in handling global humanitarian crises, he should get credit for having made remarkable progress in the UN’s efforts to eradicate poverty on a global scale and deal with climate change — only that these achievements often don’t grab international headlines.
Ban could be remembered as a mediocre UN secretary general by the rest of the world but in South Korea, he is hugely popular. Many South Koreans see him as a symbol of nationalism as well as an incorruptible statesman and look to him to clean up the political mess in the country.
After all, he is the first ever Korean to be in charge of a prestigious international organization like the UN.
Currently Ban’s approval rating stands at 21.5 percent but it is believed that his popularity will soar once he announces his candidacy.
However, one major disadvantage of Ban is that, after having spent 10 years away from his country, he has no political allies, connections nor political parties to back him.
If he wants to run for president, he will have to start everything from scratch. It is believed that either the opposition or the spin-off of the ruling Saenuri Party may embrace him.
This article appeared in the Hong Kong Economic Journal on Jan. 18
Translation by Alan Lee
[Chinese version 中文版]
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