South Korean Foreign Affairs and Trade Minister Ban Ki Moon is a shoo-in for becoming the next secretary general of the United Nations. Succeeding Mr. Kofi Annan, Mr. Ban will take up his new job Jan. 1. His election as secretary general later this month by the 192-member General Assembly became certain Oct. 2, when he received a decisive 14 positive votes (with one “no opinion”) in the final straw poll of the U.N. Security Council.

Mr. Ban will be the first U.N. secretary general from Asia in 35 years — after Mr. U Thant of Myanmar, who left office in 1971 — and the first person ever from East Asia. His long experience as a diplomat, including a long U.N.-related stint, and his gentle personality are strong assets that are expected to serve him well as he carries out his new job.

Mr. Ban, who joined the Foreign Ministry in 1970, became familiar with the U.N. by working at the South Korean U.N. mission from 1974 to 1978. He served as chief assistant to U.N. General Assembly president Han Seung Soo for one year from 2001. South Korean President Roh Moo Hyun promoted him from presidential adviser to foreign minister in January 2004. Even amid the deterioration of relations between South Korea and Japan due to former Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi’s repeated visits to the war-related Yasukuni Shrine, Mr. Ban made efforts to keep a channel of dialogue open with Japan.

Japan has not been enthusiastic about a South Korean becoming the next U.N. secretary general because South Korea opposed Japan’s recent attempt to become a permanent member of the Security Council. As it became clear that all permanent members of the Security Council supported Mr. Ban, Japan also decided to support him. Japan should use this chance to strengthen trustful ties between Japan and South Korea.

While the U.N. as a whole faces issues such as peace and security, terrorism, human rights, poverty and prevention of nuclear proliferation, Mr. Ban has the daunting task of making the U.N. Secretariat more efficient, free of corruption and transparent, while carrying out organizational reform of the global peacekeeping body. It is hoped that Mr. Ban will succeed in restoring greater credibility to the U.N.

In a time of both misinformation and too much information, quality journalism is more crucial than ever.
By subscribing, you can help us get the story right.