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As UN Ban Given Hyundai & Champagne by South Korea, Ad & Legal Qs

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, December 17 -- UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon accepted an armored Hyundai sedan from South Korea's Ambassador Kim Sook on Monday afternoon, along with a glass of champagne.

  Ambassador Kim Sook said the car had taken one year to customize, and is named Equus, which he translated as "horse of victorious general" -- in this case, Secretary General. Photo here.

  Some wondered if Ban would accept such a gift from North Korea, formally the Democratic People's Republic of Korea, and what such a gift might be. (One observer mused, a rocket ride?)

  South Korea joins the UN Security Council next month; when Inner City Press asked Ambassador Kim Sook last week if he spoke in the closed door meeting on North Korea's launch, he memorably quipped that until January 1, "I have no mouth."

  The car had a red bow on the hood, like in television commercials. Ban genially gave an engraved dish to a Hyundai executive.

  Staff members contacted Inner City Press to ask about the legality. "We're told by Ban's office we can't accept even a bottle of wine from our Missions," one complained. "And he takes a car?"

  In attendance was Ban's top lawyer Patricia O'Brien, whom Inner City Press has repeatedly asked to hold a press conference and answer questions. But Ban's spokesman Martin Nesirky, also in attendance, most recently said no, that is highly unlikely.

  The champagne, at a car ceremony, seemed to Inner City Press a false note, not in the spirit of Don't Drink and Drive messaging. Photo here.

  Some might call this a cheap shot. Others might wonder why the UN chose to publicize this handover. Hyundai's and South Korea's motives would be easier to grasp.

While these was no informational hand-out at the event, held in a tent in front of the UN's North Lawn building, putting the best face on it once imagines that it is a gift to the UN, which should stay with the UN when Ban Ki-moon moves on. But staff remain confused, expressing anger to Inner City Press.

More generally, this may represent a new low in the corporatization of the UN. How will the video footage, including Ban Ki-moon praising the Hyundai "family," be used? Are there any restrictions? Watch this site.

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