UN Chief Ban Ki-moon and his wife pose for a photo with Phan's family members in Hanoi. Photo credit: Phan's family
A private visit by United Nations General Secretary Ban Ki-moon to a family called Phan in Hanoi recently and his claim to be “family” has left people scratching their heads in puzzlement.
The South Korean diplomat visited the family’s worship house in the outlying Quoc Oai District on May 23 during an official visit to Vietnam, but information about the visit was kept confidential until recently, adding to the speculation.
Phan Huy Thanh, an elder of the Phan family, said an official visited on May 21 to discuss the reception and security plans.
“On arriving, Mr. Ban Ki-moon greeted every one and went straight to the worship house to burn incense before writing a commemorative note and taking photos with people in the family.”
In his note, Ban wrote: “I am deeply humbled to visit and pay my deep respect to this house of worship of Phan Huy Chu [which he wrote in Sino-Vietnamese] and other [Phan] family members. Thank you for preserving this house of worship.”
“As one of the [Phan] family, now serving as Secretary General of UN, I commit myself that I will try to follow the teachings of ancestors.”
The family gifted the UN Chief the book “Lich trieu hien chuong loai chi” (Regulations of Successive Dynasties by Subject-Matter), an encyclopedic work by Nguyen Dynasty Confucian scholar Phan Huy Ich, a member of the Phan family.
Experts are divided on the UN chief’s relationships with the Phan family in Vietnam.
Nguyen Hung Vi, a lecturer at the Vietnam National University, Hanoi said he has looked up Phan’s family records and found no information about any member migrating abroad.
Zing news website quoted an anonymous senior South Korean diplomat in Vietnam as saying the note does not mean Ban has family ties with the Phans.
“Ban and Phan are written the same way in Sino-Vietnamese. It means that Phans and Bans worldwide might have had the same origin long ago.”
He said the UN chief’s visit was merely a diplomatic act.
“People should not think that Ban Ki-moon has ancestors in Vietnam.”
Ly Xuan Chung, director of the South Korean Research Center at the Vietnam Academy of Social Sciences, said the visit cannot be considered a diplomatic action.
“If it were a diplomatic action, it should have been splashed on the media. He visited like a normal scion, to pay respects to the Phans.”
Nguyen Ngoc Nhuan, former vice chairman of the Sino-Vietnamese Research Institute, said there are four variants of the Phan family records.
“There are unidentified branches in the Phan family tree and someone could have migrated abroad. Someone might have gone away to avoid being avenged by the Nguyen Dynasty because Phan Huy Ich had worked for the Tay Son Dynasty.”
Prof Phan Huy Le, chairman of the Vietnam Association of Historical Sciences and a member of the Phan family, said he believed Ban had considered carefully before writing the note.
“But he did not tell anyone about the [possible family] relationship during his two days in Vietnam. Maybe he does not have sufficient evidence but only certain information and needed to visit in person to study further.”
Le said there are no records of a family member migrating to Korea.
Yet he did not think Ban visited his family just because the two families share the same Sino-Vietnamese name.
“There are many different Phan families in Vietnam, why us?”