The South Korean government welcomed President Barack Obama’s nomination of Dartmouth College president Jim Yong Kim, a Seoul-born U.S. citizen, to become the next president of the World Bank, the global lender that seeks to reduce poverty.
South Korean President Lee Myung Bak’s office “highly appreciates” the nomination, which will “help the overseas Korean community,” presidential spokesman Park Jeong Ha said today in a statement.
Kim, 52, who has served as Dartmouth College president since 2009, moved with his family to the U.S. when he was five. He graduated from Brown University in 1982 and in 1991, earned his M.D. from Harvard University, where he later led its department of Global Health and Social Medicine.
Kim received a MacArthur Foundation fellowship, popularly called a “genius award,” in 2003. He also served as director of the World Health Organization’s HIV/AIDS department, where he focused on initiatives to help developing countries improve their treatment, prevention and care programs.
“Kim is the best man to fulfill the duty as the president of the World Bank to reform the organization and continue the fight against poverty based on his vast experience in international health care and development,” Bahk Jae Wan, the South Korean minister of strategy and finance, said in an e- mailed statement dated yesterday.
Jose Antonio Ocampo, a Colombian national and a professor at Columbia University in New York, and Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, Nigeria’s finance minister, are the two other nominees who will be considered for the president’s post, the World Bank’s board of executive directors said in a statement yesterday.
The board will make the final selection during a meeting on April 20. Kim is expected to secure the post, which has always been led by an American. He would succeed Robert Zoellick, a former U.S. trade representative whose term ends in June.
The U.S. customarily makes the appointment as the biggest shareholder in the Washington-based bank.
Koreans who attended Dartmouth College see the nomination as “a great honor,” which at the same time is a loss for their alma mater, said Michael Kim, president of the Dartmouth Club of Korea. “This is a great opportunity and everyone is happy for him but we are also sad that he’s leaving Dartmouth only after a few years.”
College graduates who have met him have described the World Bank candidate as impressive and “very dynamic” with a clear vision for the college, said Kim, a Korean-American professor of colonial Korean history at Yonsei University in Seoul.
“Jim Kim is a rarity among Korean-Americans in that they are normally in professional careers as lawyers, bankers, doctors and engineers, whereas he took an alternative path of public service,” he said. “From that perspective he’s a real path breaker.”
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