Ban Ki-moon born 13 June 1944) is the eighth and current Secretary-General of the United Nations, after succeeding Kofi Annan in 2007. Before becoming Secretary-General, Ban was a career diplomat in South Korea's Ministry of Foreign Affairs and in the United Nations. He entered diplomatic service the year he graduated from university, accepting his first post in New Delhi, India. In the foreign ministry he established a reputation for modesty and competence.
Ban was the Foreign Minister of the Republic of Korea from January 2004 to November 2006. In February 2006, he began to campaign for the office of Secretary-General. Ban was initially considered to be a long shot for the office. As foreign minister of Korea, however, he was able to travel to all of the countries that were members of the United Nations Security Council, a maneuver that turned him into the front runner.
On 13 October 2006, he was elected to be the eighth Secretary-General by the United Nations General Assembly. On 1 January 2007, he successfully succeeded Annan, and led several major reforms regarding peacekeeping and UN employment practices. Diplomatically, Ban has taken particularly strong views on Darfur, where he helped persuade Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir to allow peacekeeping troops to enter Sudan; and on global warming, pressing the issue repeatedly with former U.S. President George W. Bush. Ban has received strong criticism from OIOS, the UN internal audit unit, stating that the secretariat, under Ban's leadership, is "drifting into irrelevance"
Ban was born in Eumseong in a small farming village in North Chungcheong, in 1944 at the end of the Japanese rule of Korea. His family moved to the nearby town of Chungju, where he was raised.During Ban's childhood, his father had a warehouse business, but the warehouse went bankrupt and the family lost its middle-class standard of living. When Ban was six, his family fled to a remote mountainside for the duration of the Korean War.After the war ended, his family returned to Chungju. Ban has mentioned meeting U.S. military troops at this time.
In secondary school (Chungju High School), Ban became a star pupil, particularly in his studies of English. In 1952, he was selected by his class to address a message to then UN Secretary-General Dag Hammarskjöld, but it is unknown if the message was ever sent. In 1962, Ban won an essay contest sponsored by the Red Cross and earned a trip to the United States where he lived in San Francisco with a host family for several months.As part of the trip, Ban met U.S. President John F. Kennedy.When a journalist at the meeting asked Ban what he wanted to be when he grew up, he said, "I want to become a diplomat."
Ban received a B.A. in International Relations from Seoul National University in 1970, and earned a Master of Public Administration from the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University in 1985. At Harvard, he studied under Joseph Nye who remarked that Ban had "a rare combination of analytic clarity, humility and perseverance Ban was awarded the degree of Doctor of Laws (Honoris Causa) by the University of Malta on 22 April 2009. He further received an honorary degree of Doctor of Laws from the University of Washington in October 2009.
In addition to his native Korean, Ban speaks English, French, and Japanese. There have been questions, however, regarding the extent of his knowledge of French, one of the two working languages of the United Nations Secretariat.
Ban Ki-moon met Yoo Soon-taek in 1962 when they were both high school students. Ban was 18 years old, and Yoo Soon-taek was his secondary school's student council president. Ban Ki-moon married Yoo Soon-taek in 1971. They have three adult children: two daughters and a son. His eldest daughter, Seon-yong (born 1972), works for the Korea Foundation in Seoul. His son, Woo-hyun (born 1974) received an MBA from Anderson School of Management at University of California, Los Angeles and works for an investment firm in New York. His youngest daughter, Hyun-hee (born 1976), is a field officer for UNICEF in Nairobi, Kenya. After his election as Secretary-General, Ban became an icon in his hometown, where his extended family still resides. Over 50,000 gathered in a soccer stadium in Chungju for celebration of the result. In the months following his election, thousands of practitioners of feng shui went to his village to determine how it produced such an important person. Ban himself is not a member of any church or religious group and has declined to expound his beliefs: "Now, as Secretary-General, it will not be appropriate at this time to talk about my own belief in any particular religion or God. So maybe we will have some other time to talk about personal matters." His mother is reportedly Buddhist.
In the Korean Foreign Ministry his nickname was Ban-jusa, meaning "the Bureaucrat" or "the administrative clerk." The name was used as both positive and negative: complimenting Ban's attention to detail and administrative skill while deriding what was seen as a lack of charisma and subservience to his superiors.The Korean press corps calls him "the slippery eel" for his ability to dodge questions. His demeanor has also been described as a "Confucian approach." He is regarded by many as a "stand-up guy" and is known for his "easy smile".
Honors and awards
- Ban Ki-moon was awarded the Order of Service Merit by the Government of the Republic of Korea on three occasions: in 1975, 1986 and 2006.
- For his accomplishments as an envoy, he received the Decoration for Services to the Republic of Austria in 2001.
- He was bestowed the Grand Cross of Rio Branco by the government of Brazil.
- He was bestowed the Gran Cruz del Sol by the government of Peru.
- He was bestowed a Doctor Honoris Causa by the National University of San Marcos, the main university in Peru and the oldest of the Americas (2011).
- He was bestowed a Doctor of Laws Degree Honoris Causa by the University of the Philippines College of Law, the national university of the country, in 2008.
- He was honored with James A. Van Fleet Award by the Korea Society in New York City for his contributions to friendship between the United States and the Republic of Korea.
In 2004, Ban replaced Yoon Young Kwan as foreign minister of South Korea under president Roh Moo-hyun. At the beginning of his term, Ban was faced with two major crises: in June 2004 Kim Sun-il, a Korean translator, was kidnapped and killed in Iraq by Islamic extremists; and in December 2004 dozens of Koreans died in the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami. Ban survived scrutiny from lawmakers and saw an upturn in his popularity when talks began with North Korea. Ban became actively involved in issues relating to inter-Korean relationships. In September 2005, as Foreign Minister, he played a leading role in the diplomatic efforts to adopt the Joint Statement on resolving the North Korean nuclear issue at the Fourth Round of the Six-party talks held in Beijing.
As foreign minister, Ban oversaw the trade and aid policies of South Korea. This work put Ban in the position of signing trade deals and delivering foreign assistance to diplomats who would later be influential in his candidacy for Secretary-General. For example, Ban became the first senior South Korean minister to travel to the Congo since its independence in 1960.
Note: Alger Hiss was Secretary-General of the United Nations Conference on International Organization, held in April to June 1945.