- Title: UN: South Korean Ban Ki-Moon speaks to Reuters about leading the U.N.
- Date: 14th October 2006
- Summary: (BN1) NEW YORK CITY, NEW YORK, UNITED STATES (OCTOBER 13, 2006) (REUTERS) (SOUNDBITE) (Korean) BAN KI-MOON, U.N. SECRETARY-GENERAL DESIGNATE SAYING: (ROUGH TRANSLATION) "South Korea and the United Nations have a special relationship that goes back 60 years. Since 1948, we have worked together. That is why it is a special thing to become the U.N. Secretary General. We were supported by the U.N and now we can give back to the U.N. now that we have come this far."
- Embargoed: 29th October 2006 12:00
- Topics: People
- Reuters ID: LVA3XT032T296DPROB20S85H9M2R
- Story Text: The next secretary-general of the United Nations, Ban Ki-moon of South Korea, pledged to be a decisive leader on Friday (October 13) and cautioned those who call him low key not to take him for a pushover.
"I may look low key or (be) soft spoken but that does not mean that I lack leadership or commitment," Ban told Reuters in his first formal interview following his appointment by acclamation by the 192-member General Assembly.
"Modesty and humility is a very important virtue in Asian countries and there should be no misunderstanding that this modesty or humility means lack of commitment. I take decisive decisions whenever it is necessary."
Ban, who is South Korea's foreign minister, comfortably beat six rivals to win the Security Council's nomination to succeed Kofi Annan, a Ghanaian who has led the world body since 1997.
Only the second Asian to head the United Nations, Ban will take over on Jan. 1 but said he wanted to start work on the transition as soon as possible. An aide said Ban could move to New York as soon as next month.
Ban made clear he would travel extensively, delegating much of the day-to-day running of the U.N.'s 9,000-strong bureaucracy to a deputy.
The U.S. ambassador to the U.N., John Bolton, has said Annan's successor should focus more on managing than on diplomacy, a view Ban delicately contradicted.
"It is true that Secretary General of the United Nations according to charter regulation is a chief administrative officer. At the same time, according to article 99 of the charter, the Secretary General may bring to the attention of the Security Council any matter which may have implications to international peace and security. Therefore the Secretary General of the United Nations, whoever one maybe, should have the capacities to deal with both administrative and political affairs," Ban said.
"I think the administrative burden of the Secretary General is too much. Therefore I intend to delegate a significant amount of administrative day to day management to deputy secretary general so that the Secretary General, while I will be fully accountable for the result of the management but would like to involved in other political matters, trying to facilitate the resolving the regional conflict issues."
Ban will start his five-year term in what Annan has called the world's most impossible job with a daunting agenda that stretches from the threats of nuclear proliferation and terrorism to reform of the United Nations itself.
He declined to discuss possible senior-level changes, saying only that he would ensure that his choices were up to the job.
He mapped out a businesslike approach to reform, saying that while it would be difficult to shrink the United Nations and its various agencies, they had to work at full steam.
Ban sidestepped questions on North Korea's reported nuclear weapons test, including whether he would be ready to visit Pyongyang early next year to help defuse tensions.
The 15-member Security Council planned to vote on Saturday on a resolution imposing economic and arms sanctions on North Korea in response to the underground blast on Oct. 9.
Ban, who became foreign minister in January 2004, has played a critical role in negotiations with North Korea in the framework of six-party talks that are now stalled.
A career diplomat who graduated top of his class in international relations from Seoul National University, he has served three times at his country's U.N. mission in New York.
His most recent tour was as chief of staff to the South Korean president of the General Assembly, which opened a day after the Sept. 11 attacks in 2001.
South Korean and other diplomats who have worked with him describe Ban as a skilled mediator and manager who is popular with staff and tirelessly hard-working.
He also said that it his appointment as Secretary General means that the South Koreans can continue to strengthen their relationship with the U.N.
"South Korea and the United Nations have a special relationship that goes back 60 years. Since 1948, we have worked together. That is why it is a special thing to become the U.N. Secretary General. We were supported by the U.N and now we can give back to the U.N. now that we have come this far," he said
Ban was born to a farming family in 1944 in the town of Chungju and is married to a woman he met in high school. They have two daughters and one son.
He told Reuters he had dreamed of being a diplomat since he was a boy but he had not thought about becoming the Secretary General until much later.
"I have dreamt to become a diplomat since I was a young boy and having risen to become the foreign minister, I think I have realized my dream. Though I have not dreamt of being Secretary General of the United Nations when I was young, while serving as foreign minister, I have been thinking of a possibility of serving this great organization as Secretary General and I have realized that dream," he said smiling.
Ban -- who has been South Korea's foreign minister since January 2004 -- inherits a bureaucracy of 9,000 staff, a $5 billion budget and more than 90,000 peacekeepers in 18 operations around the globe that cost another $5 billion.
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