Ban Ki-moon

This is a Korean name; the family name is Ban.
Ban Ki-moon
8th Secretary-General of the United Nations
Assumed office
1 January 2007
Deputy Asha-Rose Migiro
Jan Eliasson
Preceded by Kofi Annan
Succeeded by António Guterres (Designate)
Minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade
In office
17 January 2004  1 December 2006
President Roh Moo-hyun
Preceded by Yoon Young-kwan
Succeeded by Song Min-soon
Personal details
Born (1944-06-13) 13 June 1944
Injō, Japanese Korea[1][2]
(now Eumseong, South Korea)
Spouse(s) Yoo Soon-taek
Children 3
Alma mater Seoul National University
Harvard University
Ban Ki-moon
Revised Romanization Ban Gimun
McCune–Reischauer Pan Kimun
Korean pronunciation: [panɡimun]

Ban Ki-moon (Hangul: 반기문; Hanja: 潘基文; born 13 June 1944) is a South Korean statesman and politician and the current Secretary-General of the United Nations. 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.

Ban was the foreign minister of South 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 South 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 13 October 2006, he was elected to be the eighth Secretary-General by the United Nations General Assembly. On 1 January 2007, he succeeded Kofi Annan. As Secretary-General, he was responsible for 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.[3][4]

Ban was named the world's 32nd most powerful person by the Forbes list of The World's Most Powerful People in 2013, the highest among South Koreans.[5] In 2014, he was named the third most powerful South Korean after Lee Kun-hee and Lee Jae-yong.[6] António Guterres was appointed by the General Assembly on 13 October 2016 to be the successor of Ban Ki-moon once he steps down on 31 December 2016.[7]

Early life and education

Ban was born on 13 June 1944 in the small farming village of Haengchi, Wonnam Township (-myeon), in Eumseong County, North Chungcheong Province in Korea.[2][8] His family then moved to the nearby town of Chungju, where he grew up.[9] 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. When Ban was six, his family fled to a remote mountainside for much of the Korean War.[8] After the war ended, his family returned to Chungju. Ban has said that, during this time, he met American soldiers.[10]

In secondary school (Chungju High 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.[11] As part of the trip, Ban met U.S. President John F. Kennedy.[8] 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."[10]

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.[10] At Harvard, he studied under Joseph Nye, who remarked that Ban had "a rare combination of analytic clarity, humility and perseverance".[11] Ban was awarded the degree of Doctor of Laws (Honoris Causa) by the University of Malta on 22 April 2009.[12] He further received an honorary degree of Doctor of Laws from the University of Washington in October 2009,[13] an honorary degree of Doctor of Law from the University of Cambridge in February 2016,[14] and an Honorary Doctor of Humane Letters Degree from Loyola Marymount University in April 2016.[15] On 30 August 2016, he was conferred the Honorary Doctor of Letters by National University of Singapore for his lifetime of service to humanity.[16]

In addition to his native Korean, Ban speaks English and French. According to a retired UN official, "one of Ban's biggest handicaps was his lack of fluency in English, which made it difficult for him to win over audiences in the US and elsewhere."[17] There have also been questions, however, regarding the extent of his knowledge of French, one of the two working languages of the United Nations Secretariat.[18]


Diplomatic career

Ban Ki-moon with U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice in January 2006

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 during the years of the Yusin Constitution.[11]

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. Ban reportedly accepted a posting to India rather than the United States, because in India he would be able to save more money to send to his family.[19][20] In 1974 he received his first posting to the United Nations, as First Secretary of the South Permanent Observer Mission (South Korea became a full UN member-state on 17 September 1991).[21] 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 Nations' International Organizations and Treaties Bureau, headquartered in Seoul.[20] 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 1990–92. 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.[19] From 1993 to 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.[20] Ban's lengthy career overseas has been credited with helping him avoid South Korea's unforgiving political environment.[22]

Ban was appointed Ambassador to Austria and Slovenia 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 in a public letter a positive statement about the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty in 2001, not long 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.[8]

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.[8] In 2001, during the 56th Session of the United Nations General Assembly, South 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.[23] In 2003, incoming president Roh Moo-hyun selected Ban as one of his foreign policy advisors.[20]

Foreign minister of South Korea

In 2004, Ban replaced Yoon Young-kwan as foreign minister of South Korea under president Roh Moo-hyun.[10] At the beginning of his term, Ban was faced with two major crises: in June 2004 Kim Sun-il, a South Korean working as an Arabic 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.[20] Ban became actively involved in issues relating to North-South Korean relationships.[19] 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.[24][25]

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 Republic of the Congo since its independence in 1960.[26]

United Nations career

Campaign for Secretary-General: 2007

2007 Secretary-General candidates[27]
Name Position
South Korea Ban Ki-moon South Korean foreign minister
India Shashi Tharoor Under-Secretary-General of the United Nations
for public information; from India
Latvia Vaira Vīķe-Freiberga President of Latvia
Afghanistan Ashraf Ghani Chancellor of
Kabul University, Afghanistan
Thailand Surakiart Sathirathai Deputy prime minister
of Thailand
Jordan Prince Zeid bin Ra'ad Jordan's ambassador
to the United Nations
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.[28] Though Ban was the first to announce a candidacy, he was not originally considered a serious contender.[11]

Over the next eight months, Ban made ministerial visits to each of the 15 countries with a seat on the Security Council.[10] Of the seven candidates, he topped each of the four straw polls conducted by the United Nations Security Council: on 24 July,[29] 14 September,[30] 28 September,[31] and 2 October.[32]

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 City.[33][34] To be confirmed, Ban needed not only to win the support of the diplomatic community, but also to 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, and had the support of the Bush administration as he pursued the position.[35] But Ban also opposed several U.S. positions: he expressed his support for the International Criminal Court and favoured an entirely non-confrontational approach to dealing with North Korea.[10] Ban said during his campaign that he would like to visit North Korea in person to meet with Kim Jong-il directly.[25] Ban was 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.[36]

Ban 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. However, he has repeatedly struggled to answer questions in French from journalists.[18] Ban has repeatedly acknowledged his limitations at French, but assured French diplomats that he was devoted to continuing his study. At a press conference on 11 January 2007, Ban remarked, "My French perhaps could be improved, and I am continuing to work. I have taken French lessons over the last few months. I think that, even if my French isn't perfect, I will continue to study it."[37]

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.[38] According to The Washington Post, "rivals have privately grumbled that Republic of Korea, which has the world's 11th-largest economy, has wielded its economic might to generate support for his candidacy". Ban reportedly said that these insinuations were "groundless". In an interview on 17 September 2006 he stated: "As front-runner, I know that I can become a target of this very scrutinizing process", and that he was "a man of integrity".[39]

In the final informal poll on 2 October, Ban received fourteen favorable votes and one abstention ("no opinion") from the fifteen members of the Security Council. The one abstention came from the Japanese delegation, who vehemently opposed the idea of a Korean taking the role of Secretary-General. Due to the overwhelming support of Ban by the rest of the Security Council, Japan later voted in favor of Ban to avoid controversy. 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. After the vote, Shashi Tharoor, who finished second, withdrew his candidacy[40] and China's Permanent Representative to the UN told reporters that "it is quite clear from today's straw poll that Minister Ban Ki-moon is the candidate that the Security Council will recommend to the General Assembly".[41]

On 9 October, the Security Council formally chose Ban as its nominee. In the public vote, he was supported by all 15 members of the council.[42] On 13 October, the 192-member General Assembly acclaimed Ban as Secretary-General.[23]

First term as Secretary-General

Ban Ki-moon with the President of Russia Vladimir Putin in Moscow on 9 April 2008
Ban Ki-moon at Davos, Switzerland in the World Economic Forum.

When Ban became Secretary-General, The Economist listed the major challenges facing him in 2007: "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, 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".[43] Before starting, Kofi Annan shared the story that when the first Secretary-General Trygve Lie left office, he told his successor, Dag Hammarskjöld, "You are about to take over the most impossible job on earth".[23]

On 23 January 2007 Ban took office as the eighth Secretary-General of the United Nations. Ban's term as Secretary-General opened with a flap. At his first encounter with the press as Secretary-General on 2 January 2007, he refused to condemn the death penalty imposed on Saddam Hussein by the Iraqi High Tribunal, remarking, "The issue of capital punishment is for each and every member State to decide".[44] Ban's statements contradicted long-standing United Nations opposition to the death penalty as a human-rights concern.[45] He 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 6 January, 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".[46][47] On the broader issue, he told a Washington, D.C. audience on 16 January 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".[48]

On the tenth anniversary of Khmer Rouge leader Pol Pot's death, 15 April 2008, Ban Ki-moon appealed 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 and which became operational in 2006, is expected to continue until at least 2010.[49]

Ban has received strong criticism from the UN Office of Internal Oversight Services (OIOS), which stated that the secretariat under Ban's leadership was "drifting into irrelevance".[50]


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.[51]

The top position devoted exclusively to management, Under-Secretary-General for Management, was filled by Alicia Bárcena Ibarra of Mexico. Bárcena 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.[52] Ban appointed Sir John Holmes, the British Ambassador to France, as Under-Secretary-General for humanitarian affairs and coordinator of emergency relief.[52]

Ban initially said that he would delay making other appointments until his first round of reforms were approved, yet later abandoned this idea after receiving criticism.[46][53] 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.[54]

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 United Nations history.[55]

Reform agenda

During his first month in office, Ban proposed two major reforms: 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 rumours 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.[46][53]

Ban Ki-moon with Bill Gates, World Economic Forum, 24 January 2013

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.[56] 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.[57] Ban's proposal to split the peacekeeping operation into one group handling operations and another handling arms was finally adopted in mid-March 2007.[58]

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 intended to focus, in addition to his declared interest in reforming the United Nations bureaucracy.[43]

On several prominent issues, such as proliferation in Iran and North Korea, Ban has deferred to the Security Council.[58] 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 19 July 2007, Taiwanese President Chen Shui-bian wrote to request admission into the UN by the name Taiwan. Ban rejected the request, stating that Resolution 2758 defined Taiwan as part of China.[59]

Global warming
U.S. President George W. Bush talks with United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon of South Korea in October 2006. In their early meetings, Ban stressed the importance of confronting global warming.

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"[60] (referring to Global Warming, see P:GW portal). On 3 September 2009 he further emphasized his concerns at the World Climate Conference in Geneva, when he stated, "Our foot is stuck on the accelerator and we are heading towards an abyss".[61] In September, 2014, Ban joined demonstrators in the People's Climate March in New York City,[62] and also called together world leaders for the UN Climate Summit,[63] in preparation for the United Nations Climate Change Conference to be held in Paris in late 2015.

Middle East

On Thursday, 22 March 2007, while Ban was taking part in the first stop of a tour of the Middle East, a mortar attack hit just 80 meters (260 ft) 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.[64] 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".[65]

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.[58] While Ban met with Mahmoud Abbas, the Palestinian president, he declined to meet with Ismail Haniya of Hamas.[66]

Ban with Angela Merkel and Dmitry Medvedev at the 34th G8 Summit, July 2008

Ban Ki-moon criticized Israel on 10 March 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.[67]

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

Although the 2009 Iranian presidential election was widely disputed, Ban Ki-moon sent a traditional congratulation message[68] to the Iranian president upon his inauguration. He kept silent over the request of Shirin Ebadi to visit[69] Iran after the crackdown on peaceful post-election protests by the Iranian police, which was perceived as a crime against humanity.[70] More than 4,000 people were arrested and nearly 70 were killed, some while being held in prison.[71] In another incident, several prominent intellectuals, including Akbar Ganji, Hamid Dabashi and Noam Chomsky, went on a three-day hunger strike in front of the UN. The incident was followed by an official request by more than 200 intellectuals, human rights activists and reformist politicians in Iran for the UN reaction.[72] Ban Ki-moon however did not take any action to stop the violence in Iran.

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton with Ban Ki-Moon, 7 April 2011

The Libyan Civil War began in 2011, the last year of Ban's first term, and dominated his attention and public statements that year. Throughout the conflict, he lobbied for peaceful solutions to the crisis. He frequently spoke out against military action in Libya, believing that a diplomatic solution would be possible and preferable. However, he conceded that if then-leader Muammar Gaddafi refused to abide by a cease fire agreement, the international coalition of military forces would have no choice but to intervene to protect the human rights of Libyans.[73] The Gaddafi government was eventually overthrown and Gaddafi killed in the conflict.[74]


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.[43] He repeatedly identified Darfur as the top humanitarian priority of his administration.[58] 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 31 July 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 the United States labeled the conflict a "genocide", the United Nations has declined to do so). The first phase of the peacekeeping mission began in October 2007.[75]


Ban Ki-moon flew to Myanmar on 25 May 2008 to guide a conference with international agencies aimed at boosting donations for the nation, which was struck by Cyclone Nargis on 2 May 2008. The conference was initiated after Ban had met with Than Shwe, the leading figure of Myanmar's government 23 May 2008. Ban toured the devastation—especially in the hard-hit Irrawaddy Delta—23 May 2008 and 24 May 2008. Myanmar officials agreed to allow the Yangon International Airport to be used as a logistical hub for aid distribution.[76]

Campaign for second term as Secretary-General: 2011

On 6 June 2011, Ban Ki-moon formally announced his candidacy for a second consecutive term as Secretary-General of the United Nations.[77] He announced his candidacy at a press conference, following a meeting with the Asian group of countries at the United Nations. Ban Ki-moon's first mandate as the Secretary-General was set to end on 31 December 2011.[78] The five permanent Security Council members supported his candidacy. There was no declared rival for the post.[79]

Second term as Secretary-General

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and Ban Ki-moon, 11 January 2015
Ban with leaders of Russia, China, India, South Africa, Vietnam and Egypt during the Moscow Victory Day Parade, 9 May 2015
Ban with Iranian President Hassan Rouhani in New York, 6 September 2013
Ban Ki-moon, Chinese President Xi Jinping, and U.S. President Barack Obama in Hangzhou, China, 3 September 2016

On 17 June 2011, he received the recommendation of the Security Council by a unanimous vote,[80] and, on 21 June, his nomination was confirmed by a unanimous[81] acclamation vote at the United Nations General Assembly.[82] His new five-year term as Secretary-General commenced on 1 January 2012[83] and will end on 31 December 2016.[77]


Ban appointed Swedish diplomat Jan Eliasson as his new Deputy Secretary-General on 2 March 2012. His Chief of Staff is Edmond Mulet of Guatemala. The appointments were part of Ban's commitment to replace top positions in his group for his second term.[84]

Key issues

Since beginning his second term in January 2012, Ban has focused his public statements and speeches on peace and equality in the Middle East and on equality issues.

Middle East

The aftermath of the Libyan Civil War and other events of the Arab Spring continued to commanded Ban's attention with the start of his second term. He focused in 2012 on what he termed "intolerance" in the Arab world. After traveling to Vienna to participate in the opening of the KAICIID Dialogue Centre to foster interreligious dialogue, Ban commented, "Many countries in the Arab world including Saudi Arabia are changing. Since the Arab Spring, the leaders have begun to listen to the voice of their people." He was however criticised in the Austrian press for associating himself with a project of Saudi King Abdullah, Saudi Arabia being a location of perceived religious intolerance.[85]

Throughout 2012, Ban expressed his concern about the continuing Israeli–Palestinian conflict, in particular the condition of the Palestinian hunger strikers in Israeli prisons[86] and the movement restrictions imposed on Gaza Strip residents.[85] On 30 August 2012 Ban criticized the Iranian leadership due to their statements regarding Israel's destruction and denying the Holocaust.[87] On 16 August 2013, Ban Ki-moon admitted that the UN was biased against Israel, stating in a meeting with Israeli students that there was a biased attitude towards the Israeli people and Israeli government at the UN. He described this as "an unfortunate situation."[88] A few days later, he backtracked on the utterance.[89]

On 26 January 2016, Ban made a statement in relation to the attacks by Palestinians against Israelis. Ban Ki-moon said that "as oppressed peoples have demonstrated throughout the ages, it is human nature to react to occupation, which often serves as a potent incubator of hate and extremism".[90] In rebuking Ban's statement, the Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu stated that "there is no justification for terror".[90]

Ban has criticized Saudi Arabian-led intervention in Yemen,[91] saying: "Grave violations against children increased dramatically as a result of the escalating conflict".[92] In June 2016, Ban Ki-moon removed a Saudi-led coalition from a list of children's rights violators.[93] He later admitted that Saudi Arabia threatened to cut Palestinian aid and funds to other UN programs if coalition was not removed from blacklist for killing children in Yemen. According to one source, there was also a threat of "clerics in Riyadh meeting to issue a fatwa against the UN, declaring it anti-Muslim, which would mean no contacts of OIC members, no relations, contributions, support, to any UN projects, programs".[94]


On June 26, 2016, during a speech in Saint Petersburg, Russia, Ban said Russia "has a critical role to play" in addressing global issues "from ending the conflicts in Ukraine and Syria, to safeguarding human rights and controlling the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction." His comments were condemned by Ukraine's UN envoy Volodymyr Yelchenko, saying that he doesn't understand how the UN chief "can say such things which sort of praise the role of Russia in settling the conflict in Ukraine when the Russian Federation is the main player in aggressing Ukraine and in keeping this conflict boiling." He also noted that Russia is being accused of human rights abuses in Crimea and is "building up the nuclear potential" on the peninsula.[95]

LGBT rights

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 promoting LGBT rights around the world.[96] The speech was met by a protest by a group of delegates, who organized a walk-out protest during the speech.[97]

During a speech at the UN headquarters commemorating Human Rights Day, Ban condemned countries with anti-gay laws, mentioning 76 countries that criminalize homosexuality. He said:

"It is an outrage that in our modern world, so many countries continue to criminalize people simply for loving another human being of the same sex."

Ban has told senior managers that homophobia will not be tolerated. He pointed to countries such as Ukraine which has proposed criminalizing public discussion about homosexuality as threatening basic human rights. He further stated that government has a duty to defend vulnerable minorities.[98] In April 2013, he described LGBT rights as one of the great neglected human rights of our time. He also said that religion, culture or tradition can never justify denial of basic rights.[99]

Syrian conflict
Main article: Syrian Civil War

Ban has been organizing and moderating the Geneva II Conference on Syria.[100]

Humanitarian action

On 25 January 2012, Ban announced that he would convene the world's first summit on humanitarian aid in order to "share knowledge and establish common best practices."[101] Known as the World Humanitarian Summit, the event took place in the 23rd–24th of May 2016 in Istanbul, Turkey. In preparation for the summit, Ban released a report on 9 February 2016 titled ‘One Humanity, Shared Responsibility’ in which he laid out an "Agenda for Humanity" based on consultations with more than 23,000 people in 153 countries.[102] The Agenda for Humanity outlines what is needed to reform humanitarian action, including political leadership to prevent and end conflict, new forms of financing, and a shift from providing aid to ending need. The summit is scheduled to include 5,000 participants, including representatives from governments, NGOs, civil society organizations, and the private sector, as well as individuals affected by humanitarian crises.[103]


According to The Washington Post, "some UN employees and delegates" expressed resentment at Ban's perceived favoritism in the appointment of South Korean nationals in key posts. Previous UN 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 UN 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.[104] 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 Nations' peacekeeping department—are highly qualified for their positions. Others such as Donald P. Gregg, a former U.S. ambassador to South Korea, say the complaints are driven by envy, "I think being from South Korea, and people have growing respect for South Korea, that's a great enhancement for the secretary general. If he brings along talented people who (whom) he knows very well, I think that's also a plus." UN records show that South Korea, the organization's eleventh-largest financial contributor, had 54 South Korean nationals assigned to its mission six months before Ban took over the top UN post.[104]

Former UN Under Secretary General for Oversight Services Inga-Britt Ahlenius denounced Ban Ki-moon after resigning her post in 2010, calling him reprehensible.[105] Ahlenius's critique was based on the grounds that the Secretary-General consistently made efforts to undermine the Office of Internal Oversight Services (OIOS) mandate and challenge its operational independence.[106] In particular, the two disputed Ahlenius's plans to hire a former prosecutor, Robert Appleton, who had carried out aggressive investigations into corruption in UN peacekeeping missions from 2006 to 2009.[107] Ban's staff explained that Appleton's appointment was rejected because female candidates had not been properly considered, and said that the final selection should have been made by Ban, not Ahlenius.[107] However, Ahlenius countered in her End of Assignment memo that "for the Secretary-General to control appointments in OIOS is an infringement of the operational independence of OIOS", and further stated, "There is no transparency, there is lack of accountability. Rather than supporting the internal oversight which is the sign of strong leadership and good governance, you have strived to undermine its position and to control it. I do not see any signs of reform in the Organization."[108]

During the ROKS Cheonan sinking events, he took the step of demanding action against North Korea for the alleged sinking of a vessel from his country. This was reported by U.N. Dispatch as being unusual, because it is rare for any Secretary-General—and particularly Ban Ki-moon—to comment on the Security Council taking action on an issue as his office had tended to be extremely deferential to the Security Council.[109]

Former UN corruption fighter James Wasserstrom has also been critical of Ban Ki-moon for attempting to limit the jurisdiction of the UN dispute tribunal following his dismissal from his Kosovo and lengthy appeals process.[110] Ban had refused to hand over confidential documents relating to the case to the UN personnel tribunal, despite repeated orders by the court to do so. In relation to another case, Ban was admonished by Judge Michael Adams for "wilful disobedience" for again failing to hand over key documents in an internal promotions dispute.[111]

In 2013, Ban Ki Moon was accused of undermining collective bargaining rights of The Staff Coordinating Council, the union representing United Nations staff. Ban unilaterally eliminated the role of the union to negotiate on behalf of the employees and terminated talks when the union protested.[112] The United Nations champions the right to collective bargaining as a basic human right in its own charter, enacted as the Right to Organise and Collective Bargaining Convention, 1949; Article 1.

International human rights organizations are critical of Ban Ki-moon for lacking accountability over negligent actions by the United Nations. Scientists and journalists conclusively proved that UN peacekeepers from Nepal were the source of the 2010–13 Haiti cholera outbreak, which has killed approximately 9,000 people and infected more than 1 in 20 Haitians. Ban has declared that the legal immunity of the United Nations before national courts should be upheld, though this does not reduce the UN's moral responsibility to overcoming Haiti's cholera epidemic.[113] Ban is named in a lawsuit challenging UN immunity on behalf of Haitian cholera victims in the U.S. District Court of Manhattan. In January 2015, Judge J. Paul Oetken dismissed the case, affirming UN immunity.[114] An appeal[115] to Oetken's decision was submitted to the Court in May 2015.[116]

Much press coverage of Ban has been critical, with The Economist, in May 2016, calling him "plodding, protocol-conscious and loth to stand up to the big powers" and "the dullest—and among the worst" secretary-generals.[117][118] An article in The Guardian of July 2010 calls his performance "deplorable," although Ban is defended by some Asian commentators who see his understated presence as more quietly Confucian.[119]

2017 presidential candidacy speculation

According to most opinion polling, Ban is the leading potential candidate for President of South Korea in 2017, leading most of major polls in Korea as of September 2016.[120] However, a UN resolution in 1946 says "a Secretary-General should refrain from accepting" any Governmental position "at any rate immediately on retirement." [121][122] Exceptions to the rule have been made in past history with the 1986 election of Kurt Waldheim to the post of President of Austria, although the position is ceremonial in nature. Kim Jong-pil, former Prime Minister of South Korea, was reported to say that Ban Ki-moon would announce his candidacy for the presidency shortly after his term as Secretary-General ends.[123]

Personal life


Ban Ki-moon and his wife visit the ancient ruins of Carthage in Tunisia, 29 March 2016

Ban Ki-moon met Yoo Soon-taek in 1962 when they were both in high school. 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.[24] His elder daughter, Seon-yong, was born in 1972 and now works for the Korea Foundation in Seoul. Her spouse is a native of India.[124][125] His son Woo-hyun was born in 1974 in India.[124] He received an MBA from Anderson School of Management at University of California, Los Angeles, and works for an investment firm in New York.[126] His younger daughter, Hyun-hee (born 1976), is a field officer for UNICEF in Nairobi.[8] 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 following his election, thousands of practitioners of geomancy went to his village to determine how it produced such an important person.[9] Ban himself is not a member of any church or religious group[127] and has declined to expound his beliefs: "Now, as Secretary-General, it will not be appropriate at this time to talk about my own belief in any particular religion or god. So maybe we will have some other time to talk about personal matters."[128] His mother is Buddhist.[9]


During his tenure at the South Korean Foreign Ministry, Ban's nickname was jusa (주사), meaning "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.[36] The South Korean press corps calls him "the slippery eel" (기름장어), for his ability to dodge questions.[10] His peers praise his understated "Confucian approach",[22] and he is regarded by many as a "stand-up guy"[11] and is known for his "easy smile".[8] After he assumed a post of United Nations secretary general, he is caricatured as "invisible man", "powerless observer", or "nowhere man" for his lack of powerful personality and leadership.[129][130][131][132]

Honours and awards

Honorary degrees


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Further reading

External links

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