In a series of seven two-hour sessions that included informal get-togethers with his wife Soon Taek, United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki Moon, the well-regarded former South Korean foreign minister, shares his insights exclusively with American journalist Tom Plate. The following excerpts from Plate's most recent book, "CONVERSATIONS WITH BAN KI-MOON: What the United Nations Is Really Like: The View from the Top," were slightly edited for The Japan Times.

Only half-jokingly, I ask him: "Are you insane still? Or were you always insane? How do you look at your sanity?"

We are on the second floor of his official residence in a Manhattan townhouse on 57th Street and York, right by the East River.