South Korean Top U.N. Secretary-General Candidate

Ban Ki-moon (L), Foreign Minister of South Korea, shakes hands with United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan (R) after their meeting during the General Assembly at U.N. headquarters in New York. Ban is a candidate for upcoming election for Secretary-General. (Photo: Stan Honda / AFP-Getty Images)

The selection process to choose a successor to U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan appears to be all but over, with South Korean Foreign Minister, Ban Ki-moon, 62, slated to be confirmed in an Oct. 9 U.N. Security Council vote, barring any unforeseen circumstances. If confirmed, he will succeed Annan on Jan. 1, 2007, and become the first Asian secretary-general since U Thant of Burma, who served from 1961 to 1971.

South Korea's Dong-a Ilbo newspaper (Oct. 4) confirmed the upcoming succession: "Ban obtained the absolute support from the members of the U.N., including the five nations with a permanent seat on the Security Council in the fourth straw poll for the U.N. secretary-general post."

"He was the only candidate who was approved by all of the permanent members of the Security Council among six candidates. In addition, Shashi Tharoor, who ranked second in the straw poll, resigned as a candidate after the poll and revealed his support for Ban. Ban Ki-moon stands to be confirmed as the next leader of the U.N. if nothing special happens."

"It appears that the Security Council will appoint Ban as the only candidate and recommend him to the U.N. General Assembly. The General Assembly has not objected to the candidate who had the support of the Security Council, so it is hopeful Ban will be selected as the next secretary-general later this month."

Reporting on the timing of the vote, Bahrain News Agency (Oct. 4) said: "U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. John Bolton said that the U.N. Security Council will hold an official session on Oct. 9 to choose the new secretary-general. The council held an unofficial vote yesterday for this post. The Foreign Minister of South Korea is the front-runner to succeed Kofi Annan, enjoying the support of the five permanent states in the U.N. Security Council."

Commenting on the succession process, Ghana's The Statesman (Oct. 4) said: "Now the actual selection of the winning candidate moves to the next and probably last step in the Security Council — a formal vote. But with such strong backing, the selection of Ban Ki-moon appears now to be a mere formality. In the 61-year history of the U.N., every candidate recommended by the Council has been approved by the Assembly."

Specific details about the poll were provided by (Oct.3): "The 15 members of the council voted 'encourage,' 'discourage' or 'no opinion' beside each candidate's name on Monday's straw vote. The ballot was secret, however, the five permanent members of the council who have veto rights, the United Kingdom, United States, France, China and Russia, voted on a blue ballot paper in order to demonstrate which candidates, if any, could escape a veto in the formal vote."

"Ban received 14 'encourage' votes, one 'no opinion' and no 'discourage' or veto votes. Every other candidate received a veto from one of the five permanent members. Ban has won all four Security Council straw votes which have been held over the past several months but Monday's vote was the first straw poll which distinguished anonymous votes by veto-wielding permanent members of the Security Council from votes cast by the other ten members."

"Following the release of the vote results, India's Shashi Tharoor announced his withdrawal as a candidate, saying of Ban, 'It is clear that he will be our next secretary-general.' Tharoor had placed second in the race receiving 10 'encourage' votes and three 'discourage' votes, one of which was from a country with a veto. Thailand's Deputy Prime Minister Surakiart Sathirathai, and former Afghan Finance Minister Ashraf Ghani each received four votes in favor. Ghani had three vetoes against him, and Surakiart two. The fifth candidate, Prince Zeid al-Hussein of Jordan had only two votes in favor and eight against, with one veto."

"Horse Trading" for Vote Support

Apparently the voting process was subject to some 'behind-the-scenes' dealing, according to India's (Oct. 5): "Britain has demanded a key United Nations job in lieu of its support for South Korean Foreign Minister Ban Ki-Moon`s candidacy for the post of next secretary-general, a top U.K. daily claimed today. Before throwing its weight behind Ban, the British government set out conditions that included the promise of top jobs for British officials, The Times claimed."

"The 'unseemly' horse trading also involved other countries, the report said, quoting diplomatic sources. … 'It was like the European states carving up Africa in the 19th century,' one diplomat at the U.N. told the newspaper. 'The very same countries that lecture the U.N. on the need to reform and to make appointments based on merit were the ones pressing for their candidates to be given top jobs.'"

"France wants to retain control of the peacekeeping department, Japan wants to secure humanitarian affairs, and America, China and Russia all expect senior posts for their staff."

Career Diplomat

From online encyclopedia, Wikipedia: "Ban has served as Minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade of the Republic of South Korea since Jan. 2004. He received his 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. Ban is married and has a son and two daughters. He identifies himself as a non-denominational Christian."

"Ban's first overseas posting was to New Delhi, India. After working in the United Nations Division at headquarters, he served as First Secretary at the Permanent Observer Mission of South Korea to the U.N. in New York City. He subsequently assumed the post of Director of the United Nations Division. He has been posted twice to the South Korean Embassy in Washington D.C. Between these two assignments he served as Director-General for American Affairs in 1990-1992. He was promoted to the position of Deputy Minister for Policy Planning and International Organizations in 1995. He was then appointed National Security Advisor to the President in 1996, and assumed the office of Vice Minister in 2000. His most recent post was as Foreign Policy Advisor to President Roh Moo-hyun."

According to Turkey's Zaman Online (Oct 4): "Known as gentle, humble and determined, Ban has close ties to the American administration. In the past, Ban has twice represented his country in Washington."

"Meanwhile, some news media covered last week's accusations against the South Korean government; that it offered African governments at the Security Council millions of dollars and 'privileges' in a bid to get them vote for the South Korean candidate."

France's International Herald Tribune (Oct 4) struck an optimistic tone regarding a Ban succession: "Forty years of public service and leadership in a country that has managed to progress from a poor dictatorship to a prosperous democracy; extensive diplomatic experience in dealing with one of the world's most dangerous conflicts; as well as the skills deepened in a mid-career program at Harvard's Kennedy School of Government are crucial assets that Ban can build on in his new job."

Providing some personal insight into the likely secretary-general, Britain's Times Online (Oct. 2) informed: "If Mr. Ban does clinch the top U.N. post in the final vote due in early December, he will have achieved a life-long ambition. As a boy, he won an English-language speech contest and was invited to the White House to meet President John F. Kennedy. When an American journalist asked him what he wanted to be, he replied 'a diplomat.'"

"After he entered the Korean diplomatic service he served at the U.N. in New York and was twice posted to the embassy in Washington. He became well-known in Asia during the 1990s when he headed nuclear talks with North Korea, alongside representatives from China, Japan, Russia and America. His handling of the negotiations appears to have won him key support from America and China."

Tough Tasks Ahead

Hong Kong's Asia Times (Oct. 6) focused on the tasks that await Ban after confirmation in an article headlined, 'U.N. mess is Ban Ki-moon's challenge': "When Ban Ki-moon assumes his position of United Nations secretary-general on Jan. 1 — barring an unforeseen last-minute hitch — he will take over an organization that, in the words of a senior U.N. official, has never been in a worse condition."

"Politically the organization, which was conceived as a link among nations, has become the arena of a new confrontation between so-called Third World countries and the industrialized world. The fallout of that clash did not spare the current secretary-general, Kofi Annan, who after having sought to be all things to all people, ended up being qualified by a major African daily newspaper as 'the African who serves his white masters.'"

If nominated and confirmed, Ban will succeed Annan of Ghana, who will complete his second and final term as secretary-general at the end of the year. Under the U.N. Charter, the secretary-general is elected by the 192-member General Assembly on the recommendation of the Security Council.