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Korean-Born University President Picked as World Bank Chief

  • Kent Klein

U.S. President Barack Obama (R) introduces Dartmouth College President Jim Yong Kim as his nominee to be the next president of the World Bank, in the Rose Garden of the White House in Washington, March 23, 2012.

U.S. President Barack Obama (R) introduces Dartmouth College President Jim Yong Kim as his nominee to be the next president of the World Bank, in the Rose Garden of the White House in Washington, March 23, 2012.

President Barack Obama has nominated Dartmouth College President Jim Yong Kim to head the World Bank.

Making the announcement Friday in the White House Rose Garden, President Obama said the World Bank is much more than just a bank.

He called the institution "one of the most powerful tools we have to reduce poverty," and explained his choice of a non-economist to lead it.

"It is time for a development professional to lead the world’s largest development agency," he said, adding that Kim has worked for years to fight poverty and promote development -- the main missions of the 187-nation World Bank, which helps finance infrastructure projects like roads and dams.

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

Kim is the first Asian-American to lead one of the United States' eight prestigious Ivy League universities. He holds degrees from Ivy League members Brown and Harvard.

He was born in South Korea in 1959, and his family moved to the United States when he was five years old.

If confirmed by the World Bank board, Kim will succeed Robert Zoellick, who has led the bank for almost five years.

The institution has always been led by an American, although developing countries have expressed interest in replacing Zoellick with a candidate from outside the United States.

Nigerian Finance Minister Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala has declared her candidacy for the World Bank presidency, and former Colombian Finance Minister Jose Antonio Ocampo has been mentioned as a possible candidate.

In recent years there has been a push to have the World Bank chief and the head of the International Monetary Fund come from a developing economy, which have grown in financial power. Traditionally, a European leads the IMF, and an American the World Bank.

Obama made the announcement before leaving late Friday for the Nuclear Security Summit in Seoul.

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