The gloves come off

South Korean candidate Ban Ki Moon is coming under wider criticism for development agreements made by South Korea during the course of his campaign.

Such concerns are not new. Ban, who continues in his day job as minister for trade as well as foreign affairs, has strategically visited each member of the Security Council. Critics point out that soon thereafter, a deal is reached benefiting that government. Ban and the Foreign Ministry of course deny any connection.

Chapter 15 posted early on about Ban’s visits to countries and aid agreements that often followed. Most observers however refrained from commenting, unsure if the agreements were in fact related to Ban’s candidacy or coincidental. Such diplomatic deference is no longer the case.

The Times of London led the charge yesterday, to be followed today by articles in the Washington Post and elsewhere, looking deeper into the timing of the visits and the agreements.  A leading Korean paper sums up the allegations as such:

As examples of “aid diplomacy,” the [Times] cites Korea’s tripling of its aid budget for African countries to US$100 million in February, the tens of thousands of pounds it contributed to sponsoring this year’s African Union summit in the Gambia in July, and its donation of $180 million for an education program in Tanzania, a temporary member of the UN Security Council.

Interesting enough, Latvia’s Vaira Vike-Freiberga – who placed third in yesterday’s straw poll – noted in an interview last April concern over the financial aspects of a competitive UNSG selection process.

“I would hate to see the selection of the secretary general being the sort of a process where candidates run around the world looking for financial supporters, where financial supporters affect the selection process and where votes are bought. It opens up a rather horrifying prospect.”

A spokesman for the South Korean government noted that decisions to increase aid to African and other developing countries was made years ago. But even putting aside poor timing in implementing this pledge, the Times’ list of recipient nations (Tanzania, Slovakia, Greece, Peru and others) since Ban’s announcement in February does bear close resemblance to another list.

Giving Ban the benefit of the doubt, however, it would be informative to see a succint but comprehensive list of countries he has visited since his announcement in February.

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