Watch the Video of Jim Yong Kim rapping here.

Surprise Nominee – Meet Dr. DJ Jim Yong Kim

President Barack Obama has nominated Dartmouth College president and global health expert Dr. Jim Yong Kim, age 52, to lead the World Bank. Dr. Kim is a Korean-born physician, born in Seoul, who moved  to the US at the age of five and was raised in Iowa. He has been a pioneer in the treatment of HIV, AIDS and tuberculosis, and has the breadth of experience on development issues needed to carry out the financial institution’s anti-poverty mission.  Dr Kim is a leading figure in global health. Before Dartmouth, he led the global-health and social-medicine department at Harvard Medical School. At the World Health Organization, he focused on helping developing countries improve AIDS treatment and prevention programs. He has also worked on tuberculosis, including efforts to cut the cost of treatment and finding treatments for drug-resistant strains. He also co-founded the health organisation Partners in Health in 1987.

A Rare Personality – J to the K

He also has a personality. Dr. Kim, the first physician to ever serve as head of the school was known for wearing a green tie every day since becoming president of the school in 2009,  and wore a green tie to the White House dinner.  Dr. Kim was the first Asian American to lead an Ivy League school. Mr. Kim was born in Seoul, South Korea, in 1959, and moved with his family to the U.S. at age 5. He grew up in Muscatine, Iowa. He graduated magna cum laude with a B.A. from Brown University in 1982, and then received his M.D. and Ph.D. from Harvard University. He received a MacArthur Fellowship in 2003.

Dr. Kim was also featured in Conan O’Brien’s Dartmouth commencement address  in 2011.

“I would like to thank President Kim for inviting me here today.  … He goes by President Kim and Dr. Kim.  To his friends, he’s Jim Kim, J to the K, Special K, JK Rowling, the Just Kidding Kimster, and most puzzling, ‘Stinky Pete.’ ” Mr. O’Brien then ran through all of Mr. Kim’s achievements, and then asked:  ”Good God, man, what the hell are you compensating for?  Seriously.  We get it; you’re smart.”

More Diverse Representation, More Expertise

The 187-nation World Bank has always been headed by an American. The World Bank and the International Monetary Fund were created at the conference at Bretton Woods in 1944 as a means to regulate trade between nations in the aftermath of the Great Depression and World War II.  It is a  institution that currently fights world poverty and promotes development, and a leading source of development loans for countries seeking financing to build infrastructure projects.

Developing countries, who have long sought to gain more power in the organization, have planned an unprecedented challenge to Obama’s pick and are expected to put forward as many as three other candidates.  In a recent editorial, three former chief economists of the World Bank – Francois Bourguignon, Nicholas Stern and Joseph Stiglitz – argued for an end to the US “monopoly” on running the institution.

Dr. Kim is seen as an unconventional pick that could help to quell criticism in the developing world of the U.S. stranglehold on the international organization’s top post.  Secretary of State Hillary Clinton first recommended that Obama consider Mr. Kim for the World Bank post. President Obama considered more than a dozen candidates, including well-known figures in the administration, but finally pushed for a nominee with broad development experience.  To show how unconventional a pick he is, consider some of the other names rumoured to be under consideration, including former White House adviser Larry Summers, Pepsi head Indra Nooyi, and UN ambassador Susan Rice.

“It’s time for a development professional to lead the world’s largest development agency,” Obama said Friday morning during a Rose Garden ceremony,” President Obama said. “Jim has truly global experience. He has worked from Asia to Africa to the Americas, from capitals to small villages,” Obama said. “His personal story exemplifies the great diversity to our country.”

In a WSJ Health Blog interview in 2009, Al Mulley, a Dartmouth trustee, said: “It wasn’t so much his medical background that appealed to us, but rather what he has done with his medical background,” He added: “He has used his intellectual inquiry to tackle some of the most complex, vexing problems across the world.”

Challenging a US Monopoly

A US national traditionally heads the World Bank while a European runs the IMF – currently France’s Christine Lagarde.  Emerging economies have become increasingly unhappy with this arrangement and are pushing for change. The vote on the next president is expected to be a formality, but it won’t be uncontested. In a joint statement, Angola, Nigeria and South Africa pledged their support to Ms Okonjo-Iweala. “The endorsement is in line with the belief that the appointment of the leadership of the World Bank and its sister institution, the International Monetary Fund, should be merit-based, open and transparent,” the statement said.

Speaking at a news conference, Mrs Okonjo-Iweala said: “I consider the World Bank a very important institution for the world, and particularly for developing countries deserving of the best leadership, so I look forward to a contest of very strong candidates. And am I confident? Absolutely.”

US development economist Jeffrey Sachs had also been put forward by several smaller, developing countries and had argued that the World Bank should be led by a development expert.

How the Selection Process Works

The selection will be made next month by the World Bank’s 25-member executive board.  Votes in both the World Bank and the IMF are weighted by financial contribution.  Some member nations have their own seats – the US and UK, for example – while others are grouped into constituencies.  A simple majority is needed to make the selection. The United States, as the world’s largest economy, has the largest percentage (16%) of the votes, and EU countries have a further 29%.  They are likely to support a US-nominated candidate, in order to preserve the long-standing informal deal which has seen the World Bank run by an American and the IMF by a European.

Following Dr Kim’s nomination, Jeffrey Sachs announced his withdrawal from the race. “Prof Sachs supports Dr Kim 100% and with complete enthusiasm,” his spokeswoman said.

Jim Yong Kim and wife Younsook Lim

A Crowd Pleaser but a Diplomat

Dr. Kim is expected to travel around the world on a listening tour to rally support for his nomination ahead of the board’s vote. He certainly has demonstrated the ability to win over a crowd.  During Dartmouth Idol in 2011, Kim performed the Black Eyed Peas’ “Dirty Bit” version of the song The Time of My Life, rapping, robot-dancing and getting down. However, he does have a commanding diplomatic presence as well, as shown in this photo of him with his wife, Younsook Lim. Overall, Dr. Kim is a well rounded candidate whose contributions to world development and sensibilities as a Korean American tell a compelling personal story -a breath of fresh air.

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