Ban Ki-moon to Build Grassroots Support for Presidential Preparatory Campaign
SEOUL, Jan. 9 (Yonhap) -- Upon arriving in his home country this week, former U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, a potential presidential contender, will strive to reach out to citizens and listen to them, a source said Monday, in an apparent move to build grassroots support ahead of a presidential election this year.
The source close to him said that he plans to set up a down-to-earth preliminary campaign team with the initial theme of "going into the midst of citizens."
Ban, a former South Korean foreign minister, completed his second five-year term as the U.N. helmsman at the end of last year and is scheduled to return to his home country on Thursday afternoon.
The source indicated that Ban would spend some time trying to connect with the general populace and underscore his folksy demeanor.
"In line with the theme, (Ban) also plans to use public transportation if possible," the source told Yonhap News Agency over the phone, declining to be named.'
Indeed, Ban is considering using the subway to go to his residence in Sadang-dong, southern Seoul, after arriving at the Incheon International Airport this week, sources said.
Observers say that Ban's efforts to get in touch with citizens are partially intended to dispel concerns that he might have lost track of domestic issues while serving as the chief of the international organization for a decade.
Ban has yet to clearly declare his bid to run in the presidential election, which is expected to be held earlier than the originally scheduled month of December due to the impeachment last month of President Park Geun-hye over a corruption scandal.
But he has said he would give his all if it would help advance his country, the strongest signal that he would throw his hat into the ring.
In various recent polls, he has been in second place in terms of popularity, trailing Rep. Moon Jae-in, a former leader of the main opposition Democratic Party who was bested by Park in the hotly contested presidential race in 2012.
A day after his arrival, Ban plans to first pay respects at the Seoul National Cemetery and travel to his hometown in Eumseong, North Chungcheong Province, where his 92-year-old mother lives. For his first public event, Ban and his entourage are expected to use public transportation services.
"(His plan to use public transportation) means (Ban) has now returned home as a normal citizen of the Republic of Korea, though he had (over the last decade) received treatment as a chief of an international organization," another source close to Ban said on condition of anonymity.
Next week, Ban has a hectic schedule that is likely to include visits to the May 18th National Cemetery in Gwangju, a traditional market in Daegu and the U.N. Memorial Cemetery in Busan. His trips to the regions of different political leanings reflect his desire for national integration, his aide said.
Ban also considers visiting the Paengmok Port in Jindo, South Jeolla Province, the site of the 2014 ferry disaster, and the tomb of former liberal President Roh Moo-hyun at Bongha Village in Gimhae, South Gyeongsang Province.
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.
Roh, who ran the country from 2003-2008, committed suicide in Bongha Village amid a sprawling corruption probe in 2009. Roh's wife Kwon Yang-sook still lives there.