Ban Ki-moon to Visit Site of Sewol Ferry Disaster & President Roh's Wife?

Ban Ki-moon to Visit Site of Sewol Ferry Disaster & President Roh's Wife?

SEOUL, Jan. 6 (Yonhap) -- Former U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon is considering visiting the site of a 2014 ferry disaster and a late liberal leader's hometown after his return home next week, an aide said Friday, amid widespread expectations about his run for president.

   His possible trip to the Paengmok Port in Jindo, South Jeolla Province, and Bongha Village in Gimhae, South Gyeongsang Province, is seen as part of his political activities ahead of the presidential election, that can be held earlier than the originally scheduled month of December.

   Ban, whose second five-year term as the U.N. helmsman ended last month, is slated to arrive in Seoul next Thursday. After his arrival, he is expected to first pay respects at the Seoul National Cemetery close to his residence in southern Seoul.

   "It is right that (he) is weighing a trip to the two places in consideration of their symbolic meanings," Ban's aide told Yonhap News Agency over the phone, declining to be identified. "But when to visit the places has yet to be decided."

   The port has become a pilgrimage site for South Koreans commemorating the deaths of more than 300 victims in the disaster on April 16, 2014. It is located just 20 kilometers away from where the ship Sewol sank.

   Bongha Village is where former President Roh Moo-hyun is buried. Roh's wife Kwon Yang-sook still lives in the village where Roh, who ran the country from 2003-2008, committed suicide amid a sprawling corruption probe in 2009.

   Observers say that should Ban decide to make the politically tinged trip, it might come before the four-day Lunar New Year's holiday that begins on Jan. 27. The traditional holiday is an important period for politicians as families gather and tend to reshape their opinions.

   Last month, Ban said he would give his all if it would contribute to advancing his home country, the strongest indication yet that he will run for president.

   Ban has recently been in second place in various opinion polls, trailing Rep. Moon Jae-in, a former leader of the main opposition Democratic Party and former presidential chief of staff to Roh.

   It remains uncertain which political parties he would join to run in the election. But most observers dismiss the possibility of him opting to become a standard-bearer of the ruling Saenuri Party that has lost public trust in the wake of the corruption scandal involving President Park Geun-hye and her longtime friend.

   Apparently preparing for Ban's presidential campaign, a group of some 10 aides has reportedly been holding daily meetings at a place near Gwanghwamun Square in central Seoul. The group includes former South Korean Ambassador to the U.N. Kim Sook and former Ambassador to Australia Kim Bong-hyun.

   Ban is expected to open an office in Mapo, western Seoul. The group is likely to join the office, observers said.'

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