EUMSEONG, South Korea, Jan. 28 (Yonhap) -- Former U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, who is seen as a strong contender in South Korea's presidential race, on Saturday touted national unity as his policy objective in response to calls to clarify his political stance.
Ban made the remark to reporters during a visit to his hometown of Eumseong, 131 kilometers south of Seoul, where he met with his relatives to mark Lunar New Year's Day.
"We have to go in a direction that embraces everyone," he said. "We have to save our country by joining forces."
The former diplomat's remark was widely seen as a response to former opposition leader Sohn Hak-kyu's call to clearly define his political line. The two held a closed-door meeting on Friday, during which Sohn also urged Ban to "stand on the side of reform."
While Sohn's remarks were interpreted as a call to join the opposition, political pundits said Ban's comments on Saturday indicated his will to stick to his initial policy objective of national unity without siding with either the conservative or liberal camp.
Ban has sought to establish a third political force comprised of those supporting a constitutional revision before the presidential election, which could come as early as April if the Constitutional Court upholds the impeachment of President Park Geun-hye before March.
If the court rejects the impeachment, Park will be reinstated and the election will be held in December as scheduled.
Recent polls rank Ban as the second most favored figure among all presidential hopefuls, next to Moon Jae-in, a potential rival from the opposition Democratic Party.