Ban Ki-moon

From New World Encyclopedia
Ban Ki-moon.

Ban Ki-moon (hangul: 반기문; born June 13, 1944) is a South Korean diplomat who was the eighth Secretary-General of the United Nations from January 2007 to December 2016. 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 college, accepting his first post in New Delhi. 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 campaign's front runner.

Korean name
Hangul 반기문
Hanja 潘基文
Revised Romanization Ban Gimun
McCune-Reischauer Pan Ki-mun

On October 13, 2006, he was elected as the eighth Secretary-General by the United Nations General Assembly. On January 1, 2007, he succeeded Kofi Annan, and passed several major reforms regarding peacekeeping and UN employment practices. Diplomatically, Ban has taken particularly strong views on global warming, pressing the issue repeatedly with former U.S. President George W. Bush, and Darfur, where he helped persuade Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir to allow peacekeeping troops to enter Sudan. Ban's tenure as United Nations chief potentially heralds in a new leadership model at the world body. His concern for unresolved-yet-pressing issues such as tackling starvation and genocide in Africa, human rights abuses in the Middle East, women's rights, and world hunger may result in better strategies and more effective action at the global level. How many of Ban's strong declarations will translate into practice remains to be seen.

Background of Ban Ki-moon


Ban was born in Eumseong in a small farming village in North Chungcheong, in 1944, while Korea was ruled by Japan. When he was three, his family moved to the nearby town of Chungju, where he was raised. During Ban's childhood, his father had a warehouse business, but it 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, his family returned to Chungju. The U.S. military troops in Korea were the first Americans whom Ban ever met.


In secondary school Ban became a star pupil, particularly in his studies of English. According to local anecdotes, Ban would regularly walk six miles to a fertilizer plant to practice English with the factory's American advisors. 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. Pres. John F. Kennedy.

Ban received a bachelor's degree 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.

According to his curriculum vitae, in addition to his native Korean, Ban speaks English, French, German, 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. 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 after his appointment, thousands of practitioners of feng shui went to his village to determine how it produced such an important person. Ban, himself, has declined to expound on his religious beliefs.


In the Korean Foreign Ministry, Ban's nickname was Ban-chusa, 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."

Ban's work ethic is well-documented. His schedule is reportedly broken into five-minute blocks; Ban claims to sleep for only five hours a night and never to have been late for work. During the nearly three years he was foreign minister for South Korea, the only vacation he took was for his daughter's wedding. Ban has said that his only hobby is golf, and he plays only a couple of games a year.

At the 2006 UN Correspondents' dinner in early December, after being elected Secretary-General, Ban surprised the audience by singing a version of "Santa Claus Is Coming to Town," with the lyrics "Ban Ki-moon is coming to town" instead. A major aim of Ban's campaign for UN Secretary-General and a focus of his early days in office was allaying concerns that he was too dull for the job.

Diplomatic career

Ban Ki-moon with Condoleezza Rice

After graduation from university, Ban received the top score on Korea's foreign service exam. He joined the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in May 1970, and worked his way up the career ladder during the years of the Yusin Constitution.

His first overseas posting was to New Delhi where he served as vice consul and impressed many of his superiors in the foreign ministry with his competence. Ban reportedly accepted a posting to India rather than the more prestigious United States, because in India he would be able to save more money, and send more home to his family. In 1974, he received his first posting to the United Nations, as First Secretary of the South Permanent Observer Mission (South Korea only became a full UN member state on September 17, 1991). After Park Chung-hee's 1979 assassination, Ban assumed the post of Director of the United Nations Division.

In 1980, Ban became director of the United Nation's International Organizations and Treaties Bureau, headquartered in Seoul. He has been posted twice to the Republic of Korea embassy in Washington, D.C. Between these two assignments he served as Director-General for American Affairs in 1990–1992. In 1992, he became Vice Chairman of the South-North Joint Nuclear Control Commission, following the adoption by South and North Korea of the Joint Declaration of the Denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula. From 1993–1994, Ban was Korea's Deputy Ambassador to the United States. He was promoted to the position of Deputy Minister for Policy Planning and International Organizations in 1995 and then appointed National Security Advisor to the President in 1996. Ban's lengthy career overseas has been credited with helping him avoid South Korea's unforgiving political environment.

Ban was appointed Ambassador to Austria in 1998, and a year later he was also elected as Chairman of the Preparatory Commission for the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty Organization (CTBTO PrepCom). During the negotiations, in what Ban considers the biggest blunder of his career, he included a positive statement about the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty in a public letter with Russia in 2001, shortly after the United States had decided to abandon the treaty. To avoid anger from the United States, Ban was fired by President Kim Dae-jung, who also issued a public apology for Ban's statement.

Ban was unemployed for the only time in his career and was expecting to receive an assignment to work in a remote and unimportant embassy. In 2001, during the fifty-sixth Session of the United Nations General Assembly, the Republic of Korea held the rotating presidency, and to Ban's surprise, he was selected to be the chief of staff to general assembly president Han Seung-soo. In 2003, the new Korean President Roh Moo-hyun selected Ban as one of his foreign policy advisors.

Foreign Minister of Korea

In 2004, Ban replaced Yoon Young Kwan as foreign minister of 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.[1] Ban became actively involved in issues relating to inter-Korean relationships.[2] 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.[3]

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.[4]


Ban has been 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 Grand Decoration of Honor from the Republic of Austria in 2001. He has received awards from many of the countries with which he has worked diplomatically: the government of Brazil bestowed the Grand Cross of Rio Branco upon him, the government of Peru awarded him Gran Cruz del Sol Sun, and the Korea Society in New York City honored him with the James A. Van Fleet Award for his contributions to friendship between the United States and the Republic of Korea.

Campaign for Secretary-General

2007 Secretary-General candidates[5]
Name Position
Flag of South Korea Ban Ki-moon South Korean foreign minister
Flag of India Shashi Tharoor UN Under-Secretary-General
for public information; from India
Flag of Latvia Vaira Vīķe-Freiberga President of Latvia
Flag of Afghanistan Ashraf Ghani Chancellor of
Kabul University, Afghanistan
Flag of Thailand Surakiart Sathirathai Deputy prime minister
of Thailand
Flag of Jordan Prince Zeid bin Ra'ad Jordan's ambassador
to the United Nations
Flag of Sri Lanka Jayantha Dhanapala Former Under-Secretary-General
for disarmament; from Sri Lanka

In February 2006, Ban declared his candidacy to replace Kofi Annan as UN Secretary-General at the end of 2006, becoming the first South Korean to run for the office. Though Ban was the first to announce a candidacy, he was not originally considered a serious contender.

Over the next eight months, Ban made ministerial visits to each of the 15 countries with a seat on the Security Council. Of the seven candidates, he topped each of the four straw polls conducted by the United Nations Security Council. During the period in which these polls took place, Ban made major speeches to the Asia Society and the Council on Foreign Relations in New York. To be confirmed, Ban needed not only to win the support of the diplomatic community, but be able to avoid a veto from any of the five permanent members of the council: People's Republic of China, France, Russia, the United Kingdom, and the United States. Ban was popular in Washington for having pushed to send South Korean troops to Iraq. But Ban also opposed several U.S. positions: he expressed his support for the International Criminal Court and favored an entirely non-confrontational approach to dealing with North Korea. Ban said during his campaign that he would like to visit North Korea in person to meet with Kim Jong-il directly. Ban was also viewed as a stark contrast from Kofi Annan, who was considered charismatic, but perceived as a weak manager because of problems surrounding the UN's oil-for-food program in Iraq.

Ban also struggled to win the approval of France. His official biography states that he speaks both English and French, the two working languages of the UN Secretariat. He has repeatedly struggled to answer questions in French from journalists. Ban has repeatedly acknowledged his limitations at French, but assured French diplomats that he was devoted to continuing his study.

As the Secretary-General election drew closer, there was rising criticism of the South Korean campaign on Ban's behalf. Specifically, his alleged practice of systematically visiting all member states of the Security Council in his role as the Minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade to secure votes in his support by signing trade deals with European countries and pledging aid to developing countries were the focus of many news articles.

In the final informal poll on October 2, Ban received 14 favorable votes and one abstention ("no opinion") from the 15 members of the Security Council. More importantly, Ban was the only one to escape a veto; each of the other candidates received at least one "no" vote from among the five permanent members.

On October 9, the Security Council formally chose Ban as its nominee. In the public vote, he was supported by all 15 members of the council.

Term as Secretary-General

Ban Ki-moon with President of Russia Vladimir Putin in Moscow on April 9, 2008.

When Ban became Secretary-General, The Economist listed the major challenges facing him in 2007: "rising nuclear demons in Iran and North Korea, a hemorrhaging wound in Darfur, unending violence in the Middle East, looming environmental disaster, escalating international terrorism, the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, the spread of HIV/AIDS. And then the more parochial concerns, such as the largely unfinished business of the most sweeping attempt at reform in the UN's history."

On January 1, 2007, Ban took office as the eighth Secretary-General of the United Nations. Ban's term opened with a flap. At his first encounter with the press as Secretary-General on January 2, 2007, he refused to condemn the death penalty imposed on Saddam Hussein by the Iraqi High Tribunal, remarking that “The issue of capital punishment is for each and every member State to decide.”[6] Ban's statements contradicted long-standing United Nations opposition to the death penalty as a human-rights concern. Ban quickly clarified his stance in the case of Barzan al-Tikriti and Awad al-Bandar, two top officials who were convicted of the deaths of 148 Shia Muslims in the Iraqi village of Dujail in the 1980s. In a statement through his spokesperson on January 6, he “strongly urged the Government of Iraq to grant a stay of execution to those whose death sentences may be carried out in the near future.”[7] On the broader issue, he told a Washington, D.C. audience on January 16, 2007 that he recognized and encouraged the “growing trend in international society, international law, and domestic policies and practices to phase out eventually the death penalty.”[8]

On the tenth anniversary of Khmer Rouge leader Pol Pot's death, U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon appealed on April 15, 2008 for the senior leaders of the regime to be brought to justice. The Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia-tribunal, which was established by both the United Nations and Cambodia, which became operational in 2006, is expected to continue until at least 2010.


In early January, Ban appointed the key members of his cabinet. As his Deputy Secretary-General, he selected Tanzanian foreign minister and professor Asha-Rose Migiro, a move that pleased African diplomats who had concerns of losing power without Annan in office.

The top position devoted exclusively to management, Under-Secretary-General for Management, was filled by Alicia Bárcena Ibarra. Ibarra was considered a UN insider, having previously served as Annan's chief of staff. Her appointment was seen by critics as an indication that Ban would not make dramatic changes to UN bureaucracy. Ban appointed Sir John Holmes, the British Ambassador to France, as Under-Secretary-General for humanitarian affairs and coordinator of emergency relief.

Ban initially said that he would delay making other appointments until his first round of reforms were approved, but he later abandoned this idea after receiving criticism. In February, he continued with appointments, selecting B. Lynn Pascoe, the U.S. ambassador to Indonesia, to become Under-Secretary-General for political affairs. Jean-Marie Guéhenno, a French diplomat, who had served as Under-Secretary-General for peacekeeping operations under Annan remained in office. Ban selected Vijay K. Nambiar as his chief of staff.

The appointment of many women to top jobs was seen as fulfilling a campaign promise Ban had made to increase the role of women in the United Nations. During Ban's first year as Secretary-General, more top jobs were being handled by women than ever before. Though not appointed by Ban, the president of the General Assembly, Haya Rashed Al-Khalifa, is only the third woman to hold this position in UN history.

Early reforms

During his first month in office, Ban proposed two major restructurings: to split the UN peacekeeping operation into two departments and to combine the political affairs and disarmament department. His proposals were met with stiff resistance from members of the UN General Assembly, who bristled under Ban's request for rapid approval. The proposed merger of the disarmament and political affairs offices was criticized by many in the developing world, partially because of rumors that Ban hoped to place American B. Lynn Pascoe in charge of the new office. Alejandro D. Wolff, then acting American ambassador, said the United States backed his proposals.[9]

After the early bout of reproach, Ban began extensive consultation with UN ambassadors, agreeing to have his peacekeeping proposal extensively vetted. After the consultations, Ban dropped his proposal to combine political affairs and disarmament. Ban nevertheless pressed ahead with reforms on job requirements at the UN requiring that all positions be considered five-year appointments, all receive strict annual performance reviews, and all financial disclosures be made public. Though unpopular in the New York office, the move was popular in other UN offices around the world and lauded by UN observers.[10] Ban's proposal to split the peacekeeping operation into one group handling operations and another handling arms was finally adopted in mid-March 2007.

According to The Washington Post, "some U.N. employees and delegates" expressed resentment at Ban's perceived favoritism in the appointment of South Korean nationals in key posts. Previous U.N. chiefs such as Kurt Waldheim (Austria), Javier Pérez de Cuéllar (Peru), and Boutros Boutros-Ghali (Egypt) brought small teams of trusted aides or clerical workers from their country's Foreign Ministry. But according to "some officials" in the Post story Ban has gone further, boosting South Korea's presence in U.N. ranks by more than 20 percent during his first year in office. In response, Ban and his aides have claimed that allegations of favoritism are wrong, and that some of the harshest criticisms against him have undercurrents of racism. He said that the South Korean nationals he had appointed—including Choi Young-jin, who has served as a high-ranking official in the United Nation's peacekeeping department—are highly qualified for their positions.[11]

Key issues

The Secretary-General of the United Nations has the ability to influence debate on nearly any global issue. Although unsuccessful in some areas, Ban's predecessor Annan had been successful in increasing the UN peacekeeping presence and in popularizing the Millennium Development Goals. UN observers were eager to see on which issues Ban intends to focus, in addition to reform of the United Nations bureaucracy.

On several prominent issues, such as proliferation in Iran and North Korea, Ban has deferred to the Security Council. Ban has also declined to become involved on the issue of Taiwan's status. In 2007, the Republic of Nauru raised the issue of allowing the Republic of China (Taiwan) to sign the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women. Ban referenced the United Nations General Assembly Resolution 2758, and refused the motion. On July 19, 2007, the President of the Republic of China wrote to request admission into the UN by the name Taiwan. Ban immediately rejected the request.

Global warming

In their early meetings, Ban stressed the importance of confronting global warming.]] He early on identified global warming as one of the key issues of his administration. In a White House meeting with U.S. President George W. Bush in January, Ban urged Bush to take steps to curb greenhouse-gas emissions. On March 1, 2007 in a speech before the UN General Assembly Hall, Ban further emphasized his concerns about global warming. Ban stated, "For my generation, coming of age at the height of the Cold War, fear of nuclear winter seemed the leading existential threat on the horizon. But the danger posed by war to all humanity—and to our planet—is at least matched by climate change."[12]

Middle East

On Thursday, March 22, 2007, while taking part in the first stop of a tour of the Middle East, a mortar attack hit just 260 feet from where the Secretary-General was standing, interrupting a press conference in Baghdad's Green Zone, and visibly shaking Ban and others. No one was hurt in the incident. The United Nations had already limited its role in Iraq after its Baghdad headquarters was bombed in August 2003, killing 22 people. Ban said, however, that he still hoped to find a way for the United Nations to "do more for Iraqi social and political development."[13]

On his trip, Ban visited Egypt, Israel, the West Bank, Jordan, Lebanon, and Saudi Arabia, where Ban attended a conference with leaders of the Arab League and met for several hours with Omar Hassan al-Bashir, the Sudanese president who had resisted UN peacekeepers in Darfur. While Ban met with Mahmoud Abbas, the Palestinian president, he declined to meet with Ismail Haniya of Hamas.

Ban Ki-moon criticized Israel on March 10, 2008 for planning to build housing units in a West Bank settlement, saying the decision conflicts with "Israel's obligation under the road map" for Middle East peace.[14]

On January 7, 2009, Ban called for an immediate end to fighting in the Gaza Strip during a meeting of the UN Security Council. He criticized both sides, Israel for bombarding Gaza and Hamas for firing rockets into Israel.


Ban took the first foreign trip of his term to attend the African Union summit in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, in January 2007 as part of an effort to reach out to the Group of 77. He repeatedly identified Darfur as the top humanitarian priority of his administration. Ban played a large role, with several face-to-face meetings with Sudanese President Omar Hassan al-Bashir, in convincing Sudan to allow UN peacekeepers to enter the Darfur region. On July 31, 2007, the United Nations Security Council approved sending 26,000 UN peacekeepers into the region to join 7,000 troops from the African Union. The resolution was heralded as a major breakthrough in confronting the Darfur conflict (although many countries have labeled the conflict a "genocide," the United Nations has declined to do so). The first phase of the peacekeeping mission began in October 2007.


Ban Ki-moon flew to Myanmar on May 25, 2008 to guide a conference with international agencies aimed at boosting donations for the nation, which was struck by Cyclone Nargis on May 2, 2008. The conference was initiated after Ban had met with Than Shwe, the leading figure of Myanmar's government May 23, 2008. Ban toured the devastation—especially in the hard-hit Irrawaddy Delta—May 23-24, 2008. Myanmar officials agreed to allow the Yangon International Airport to be used as a logistical hub for aid distribution.

Political offices
Preceded by:
Yoon Young-kwan
Minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade of South Korea
Succeeded by: Song Min-soon
Preceded by:
Kofi Annan
Secretary-General of the United Nations
Succeeded by: António Guterres


  1. Joo-hee Lee, 2006. "Ban surges toward next career step." The Korea Herald.
  2. Ban Ki-moon. BBC News. October 16, 2006. Retrieved January 4, 2017.
  3. Lally Weymouth, A Baptism by Fire. Newsweek, October 23, 2006. Retrieved January 4, 2017.
  4. Colum Lynch, "S. Korean Contender for U.N. Post Has an Edge; Ban Ki Moon's Rivals Complain About His Role in Foreign Aid and Trade Policy." The Washington Post, 2006.
  5. Warren Hoge, 2006. "South Korean Favored to Win Top Job at U.N." New York Times.
  6. New U.N. chief undercuts anti-execution stance. Associated Press, January 2, 2007. Retrieved January 4, 2017.
  7. Office of the Secretary-General, Secretary-General Strongly Urges Government to Stay Execution of Death Sentences Imposed by Iraqi High Tribunal. United Nations, January 8, 2007. Retrieved January 4, 2017.
  8. Office of the Secretary-General, Address at the Center for Strategic and International Studies and Q&A (transcript). United Nations, January 16, 2007. Retrieved January 4, 2017.
  9. Warren Hoge, "U.N. Chief Returns to Headquarters, Where Battles Await Him." The New York Times, 2007.
  10. Warren Hoge, "New United Nations Chief Tackles the Agency's Tradition of Patronage Jobs." New York Times, 2007.
  11. Colum Lynch, Under U.N. Chief, Koreans in Key Posts. Washington Post, October 21, 2007. Retrieved January 4, 2017.
  12. Colum Lynch, U.N. Secretary General Calls Global Warming a Priority. Washington Post, March 2, 2007. Retrieved January 4, 2017.
  13. Warren Hoge, "U.N. Chief Isn't Discouraged by His Close Call in Iraq." The New York Times, 2007.
  14. U.N. blasts Israel for West Bank housing expansion plan. CNN, March 10, 2008. Retrieved January 4, 2017.

ISBN links support NWE through referral fees

  • Appointment of the Secretary-General of the United Nations: Resolution by the UN. General Assembly (61st session: 2006-2007). New York, NY: United Nations, 2006.
  • Baylis, John, Steve Smith, and Patricia Owens (eds.). The Globalization of World Politics. New York, NY: Oxford University Press, 2008. ISBN 978-0199271184
  • Bolton, John R. Surrender is Not An Option: Defending America at the United Nations and Abroad. New York, NY: Threshold Editions, 2007. ISBN 978-1416552840
  • The Future of the United Nations under Ban Ki-Moon: Hearing before the Committee on Foreign Affairs, House of Representatives, One Hundred and Tenth Congress, First Session, February 13, 2007, by the United States Congress, House Committee on Foreign Affairs. Washington, DC: US G.P.O., 2007.

External links

All links retrieved September 17, 2023.


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