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On Scandal in S. Korea, UN Tells ICP Ban “Has Nothing To Do With His Nephew”

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, May 15 -- As UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon prepared to head to his native South Korea for four days, Press questions remain unanswered by the UN about his links to the scandal surrounding the suicide of South Korean businessman Sung Wan-jong.

   Inner City Press a month ago on April 17, then again yesterday on May 14, asked Ban's UN spokespeople about scandal, the first time drawing laughter and yesterday on a closer link to Ban, a flat but vague denial. The closer link involves Ban's nephew Bahn Joo-hyun and an allegedly forged letter from Qatar's sovereign wealth fund, the Qatar Investment Authority.

   Implausibly, Ban's spokesman Stephane Dujarric on May 14 told Inner City Press that Ban has “no connection” with his nephew.

   In the same briefing he refused to explain why the UN, in responding to Press questions about another UN scandal involving the cover up of child rape in the Central African Republic by French soldiers and Ban's (French) UN Peacekeeping chief Herve Ladsous, provided answers only to correspondents who hadn't even asked or in some cases reported about the rapes.

   Dujarric told Inner City Press, "Matthew, I can't be responsible for what parties you're invited to or not invited to." Ban later that day feted the so-called UN Correspondents Association, whose leadership not only never asked about  Sung Wan-jong but actively tried to get Inner City Press thrown out of the UN. It's the UN's (or Ban's) Censorship Alliance. The new Free UN Coalition for Access, FUNCA, takes a different approach.

  Back on April 17, Inner City Press asked Ban's spokesperson at that day's noon briefing:   (video here)

Inner City Press: about the individual, Mr. Sung Wan-jong, who committed suicide, but apparently before he did, said that he had very close ties with Ban Ki-moon.  That's why he was being prosecuted and said that they developed the Chungcheong Forum together.  So I just wanted to, what was his relationship to the individual who committed suicide?  Why does he think his name has come up in connection with this scandal?  And does he have some kind of statement of --

Associate Spokesperson:  I mean, all we have to say about this is we've seen the reports, and as we've said from this podium and the Secretary-General has himself said many times, his focus is on his job currently and not on Korean domestic politics.

Inner City Press: Sure.  It’s less a question about running for office there, then so much as if somebody, right before they commit suicide, says, it's kind of like “Rosebud”, he said Ban Ki-moon, does he…

Associate Spokesperson:  We have no comment.  [laughter]  We have no comment.

  In the month that followed, even as the scandal developed, no questions  were asked or allowed at the UN about it. Ban's Deputy Spokesperson Farhan Haq, when Inner City Press pursued follow up questions, said “you must have been such an obnoxious child.”  UNCA said nothing; the Free UN Coalition for Access, FUNCA, challenged this and Ladsous' approach including in a flier it posted in the UN's fourth floor press area.

  Also on press freedom in Ban's UN and his links with South Korea, a week ago on May 8 Inner City Press asked Dujarric:

Inner City Press / FUNCA: There are a number of reporters complaining publicly in a their publications that they sought to attend a “Journalists at Risk” event yesterday inside the UN in which the ambassadors of France and Belgium spoke and that they were not able to attend it and was told the press was being “banned” from the event.

Spokesman Dujarric:  Banning the press is not something I like to do.  No press was banned.  I think there was miscommunication on the part of the organizers, who probably didn't coordinate the way they should have with our colleagues here.  A guest list was provided to our security services, which included journalists.  And those people on the guest list were able to attend.  I think there may have been misunderstanding where journalists wanted to come in with cameras who didn't have accreditation.  We tried to facilitate things as much as possible.  As always here, we're happy to host any event, obviously, the Member States are holding.  It just needs a minimum of coordination with the various services.  But, to say that press was banned, I think is a mischaracterization of what happened.

Inner City Press / FUNCA:  Some are contrasting it to the speed with which journalists were processed to attend the Hillary Clinton stakeout.  They were saying that this was actually… there was more time to do them, but they were told it's impossible, it can't be done.

Spokesman Dujarric:  I would dispute that account, as well.  You had country-specific questions?

Inner City Press: The country is South Korea.  I just want to know, since it's out there and it has been reported in The Korea Times, can you confirm that the Secretary-General is going to South Korea for four days in and around 22 May?

Spokesman Duarric:  I cannot confirm at this point, but I encourage you to attend the briefings next week.

   A week later on May 14, as the scandal grew closer to Ban at least through family ties, Inner City Press asked Ban's lead spokesman Stephane Dujarric about it: (video here)

Inner City Press: about this case in South Korea that's been bouncing around for some time, the businessman Mr. Sung, who committed suicide, but mentioned the Secretary-General's name soon before he did it.  And there's a new article in the Korea JoongAng Daily, which says that Mr. Ban's nephew Ban Joo-hyun, the manager of a New York-based real estate firm, is somehow involved in this case.  And it cites him providing a forged letter for the Qatar Investment Authority, saying a building in Viet Nam was going to be built when it wasn't.  I would assume that your office is aware of this.  What is the… is any of this true?  For example, is his nephew involved in this real estate deal?  Does his nephew deny providing a fraudulent Qatari investment fund letter?

Spokesman Dujarric:  I think the… This does not… this does not involve the Secretary-General.  He has nothing to do with this issue, and he has nothing to do with his nephew.  And I think you… I really have nothing else to add.

Inner City Press: I'm only asking because it only has connection to possible politics, countries, the commonwealth fund — do you deny it?

Spokesman Dujarric:  I understand… I think… Clearly, the Secretary-General is not involved in any of this.  I would like to… oh.  Yes.  I would like to say have a good weekend.  But, go ahead.  (Video from Minute 3:53)

  Inner City Press has previously and repeatedly asked the UN about Ban family connections and the still UNdisclosed acceptance of gifted travel, from Qatar, here.

  Watch this site.


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