Ban Ki-moon meets former South Korean opposition leader

Seoul, Jan 27 (IANS) Former UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon met a former opposition leader on Friday, multiple sources familiar with the meeting said, the latest in a series of his efforts to join forces with the opposition bloc for his presidential bid.

Ban held a closed-door meeting with former Democratic Party (DP)chief Sohn Hak-kyu for about an hour in Seoul, Yonhap news agency reported.

The two are believed to have shared the need for revising the Constitution, though they were reportedly at odds over details.

Ban recently called for a constitutional revision before the presidential election in a way that would empower the Prime Minister to be in charge of domestic affairs.

In South Korea, the Prime Minister is the second highest position after the President, but the job has been a largely ceremonial as power is concentrated heavily in the President. South Korea has revised the Constitution nine times since 1948 when it came into being.

South Korea introduced the single five-year term presidency in 1987 after decades of autocratic rule by military-backed Presidents. The system was primarily aimed at keeping the President from attempting to hold on to power through illicit means.

Sohn is said to have called for a transfer of power led by reformists in a clear signal that he would not join hands with Ban in case the former UN chief works with the ruling Saenuri Party or other conservative party.

“We should stand on the side of reform,” Sohn said, noting that the era of a conservative government is gone.

Sohn, who currently does not hold any party affiliation, said that he told Ban that the former UN chief should be more clear about his political line and policy.

Ban also met with police officers and firefighters on Friday in an apparent move to give them pep talks and promote his presidential bid.

Earlier, he met various politicians while making visits to different areas of the country after returning home earlier in January from New York where he served as the UN chief.