South Korea’s Foreign Minister Discusses Six Party Talks at KSG Forum

October 13, 2006
Sharon Alexandra

Ban Ki-Moon, a 1984 graduate of the Kennedy School’s Master of Public Administration (MPA) program and an Edward S. Mason Fellow, has been selected to become the new Secretary General of the United Nations. His nomination was approved on Friday by the U.N.’s General Assembly.

During the past two-and-a-half years, Ban has served as Foreign Minister of the Republic of Korea, and prior to that he served as National Security Advisor to two different presidents.

“I worked closely with Ban Ki-Moon for years, including in preparation for the first visit of a presidential envoy to North Korea,” explained Ashton Carter, professor of science and international affairs and a former assistant secretary of defense. “He is wise, subtle, and knows the United States well. If anyone can make the United Nations all it can and should be, it’s Ban.”

Responding to those concerned that his soft-spoken manner and understated leadership style could be less than ideal in leading an organization as complex as the U.N., Ban told the New York Times that he is very decisive, explaining that “I know there are some people who are flamboyant and make lots of noise; but I have my own kind of charisma.”

Describing Ban as “a great diplomat, patient, persevering, and determined,” Joseph S. Nye, university distinguished service professor and former assistant secretary of defense, commented, “His quiet style is combined with a good analytic mind.”

Graham Allison, director of the Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs and a former dean of the Kennedy School described Ban as “an outstanding student…an outstanding Foreign Minister; and I am confident he will be an outstanding Secretary General.”

Ban told the Times that he has made several trips to the developing world and forged relationships in those countries, as well. Herman (Dutch) Leonard, professor of public management at the Kennedy School affirms Ban’s assertion.

“He is deeply grounded in several cultures. And his KSG training should prepare him well for understanding the role of the U.S. in the U.N. and the relationship of the U.S. to the U.N. – both of which are important for the U.S., for the U.N., and for the world,” Leonard said.

Ban most recently visited the Kennedy School in September 2005 to participate in a Forum panel discussion on the Six-Party Talks on North Korea. Reflecting on his KSG experience before a packed audience, he said, “I can say with certainty that my Harvard experience has served me well throughout my career. The excellence of the ideas and the insights offered by many distinguished prominent scholars who have graced this campus have really enriched us all.”

Ban will succeed Kofi Annan as U.N. Secretary General on January 1, 2007.

Photo: Greg Wilson, Institute of Politics

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