Something of Interest
Ban Ki-moon (born 1944) is the eighth 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 of 2006 he began to campaign for the office of Secretary-General. Ban was initially considered a long shot for the office. As foreign minister of Korea, however, he was able to travel to all the countries on the United Nations Security Council, a maneuver that turned him into the campaign's front runner.
On October 13, 2006, he was elected to be the eighth Secretary-General by the United Nations General Assembly. On January 1, 2007, he succeeded Kofi Annan. Ban struggled in his first month to adjust to the culture of the United Nations, but quickly found his bearings and passed several major reforms on peacekeeping and UN employment practices. Diplomatically, Ban has taken particularly strong views on global warming, pressing the issue repeatedly with U.S. President George W. Bush, and on the Darfur conflict, where he helped persuade Sudanese president Omar al-Bashir to allow peacekeeping troops to enter Sudan.
Ban was born in a small farming village in North Chungcheong Province, in June 1944. His family then moved to the nearby town of Chungju, where he grew up. 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.
In secondary school, Ban became a star student, particularly in his studies of the English language. 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."
He 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. Ban was awarded a honorary degree of Doctor of Laws by the University of Malta in 2009 and by the University of Washington in 2009.
After graduating 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.
Ban's first overseas posting was to New Delhi, India, where he served as vice consul and impressed many of his superiors in the foreign ministry with his competence. In 1974 he received his first posting to the United Nations. In 1980 Ban became director of the United Nations' International Organizations and Treaties Bureau, headquartered in Seoul. He has been posted twice to the South Korean embassy in Washington, D.C. and was appointed Ambassador to Austria and Slovenia in 1998.
In 2004, Ban replaced Yoon Young-Kwan as foreign minister of South Korea under president Roh Moo-hyun. Ban became actively involved in issues relating to North-South 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.
Ban Ki-moon married Yoo Soon-taek in 1971. They have three adult children: two daughters and a son.
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.
However, on 9 October, the Security Council formally chose Ban as its nominee and was supported by all 15 members of the council. On 13 October, the 192-member General Assembly acclaimed Ban as Secretary-General.
The main issues that faced him when becoming Secretary-General were the rising nuclear demons in Iran and North Korea, a haemorrhaging wound in Darfur, unending violence in the Middle East, looming environmental disaster, escalating international terrorism, the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction and the spread of HIV/AIDS.
Ban 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 1 March 2007 in a speech before the UN General Assembly, Ban 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".
Ban 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.
Although the 2009 Iranian presidential election was widely disputed, Ban Ki-moon sent a traditional congratulation message to the Iranian president upon his inauguration. He kept silent over the request of Shirin Ebadi to visit Iran after the crackdown on peaceful post-election protests by the Iranian police – an event that was perceived by some as a crime against humanity. More than 4000 people were arrested and nearly 70 were killed, some while being held in prison. Ban Ki-moon however did not take any action to stop the violence in Iran.
His new five-year term as Secretary-General commenced on 1 January 2012 and will end on 31 December 2016.
Throughout 2012, Ban expressed his concern about the continuing Israeli–Palestinian conflict, in particular the condition of the Palestinian hunger strikers in Israeli prisons and the movement restrictions imposed on Gaza Strip residents. On 30 August 2012 Ban criticized the Iranian leadership due to their statements regarding Israel's destruction and denying the Holocaust.
On 7 March 2012 Ban delivered a speech titled 'The Time Has Come' to the United Nations Human Rights Council urging the Council to place greater emphasis on combating homophobia and LGBT rights around the world.
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