Obama Picks Korean-Born University President as World Bank Chief

Posted March 23rd, 2012 at 7:30 pm (UTC-5)
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U.S. President Barack Obama has nominated Jim Yong Kim, the Korean-born president of Dartmouth College, to head the World Bank.

The 52-year-old Kim is a surprise selection by the U.S. to fill the top job at the international financial institution. Mr. Obama said Friday that Kim is well-qualified and a symbol of the diversity of the American populace, with extensive worldwide healthcare expertise.

“He has truly global experience. He's worked from Asia, to Africa, to the Americas, from capitals to small villages. His personal story exemplifies the great diversity of our country and the fact that anyone can make it as far as he has as long they're willing to work hard and look out for others.”

If confirmed by the World Bank board, Kim would replace Robert Zoellick, who recently announced his resignation, effective at the end of June. An American has always headed the World Bank, but the U.S. nominee could face a significant challenge this time.

Developing nations say they are interested in filling the slot with a candidate from outside the U.S. On Friday, Angola, Nigeria and South Africa endorsed Nigerian Finance Minister Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, an economist and diplomat, as their choice.

The head of the World Bank has often come from a business or banking background. But Mr. Obama cited Kim's background as a physician and anthropologist as key credentials to lead the World Bank's effort in fighting poverty and disease.

“Jim has spent more than two decades working to improve conditions in developing countries around the world. As a physician and an anthropologist, he co-founded Partners in Health and led a World Health Organization campaign to treat three million people with HIV/AIDS.”

Kim moved to the United States with his family when he was five years old and grew up in Iowa. He has been president of Dartmouth College, a prestigious university in the northeastern state of New Hampshire, since July 2009.

The 187-nation World Bank, with the U.S. as its prime financial supporter, focuses on fighting world poverty and promoting development. The Washington-based agency makes loans to countries looking to build their infrastructure with new dams, roads and other projects.