Obama Nominates Jim Yong Kim to Head the World Bank

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President Barack Obama announces the nomination of Dartmouth College President Jim Yong Kim, center, for president of the World Bank, as Secretary of State Hillary Clinton looks on, March 23, 2012 in Washington.

In a surprise move, on Friday, March 23, President Barack Obama named Dartmouth president Dr. Jim Yong Kim as his nominee to head the World Bank.

Coming on the eve of a trip to South Korea, Obama’s announcement turned heads in Washington. Kim, a medical doctor who previously worked for the World Health Organization combating AIDS, has little banking or political experience. Other officials considered for the post were United Nations ambassador Susan Rice, Senate Foreign Relations Committee chairman John Kerry, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Jeffrey Sachs, a well-known development economist at Columbia University who had vigorously campaigned for the job.

Kim, who joined Dartmouth in 2009, has advanced degrees in medicine and anthropology from Harvard, where he chaired the medical school’s department of global health and social medicine before becoming Dartmouth’s president. “Jim has truly global experience. He’s worked from Asia to Africa,” Obama said Friday at the White House. “His experience makes him ideally suited to forge partnerships around the world.”

Kim will replace Robert Zoellick, a nominee of President George W. Bush, who announced his retirement in February after five years as World Bank head.

Since the World Bank’s inception in 1944, its top job has always gone to an American as part of an informal agreement with the Europeans, who send one of their own to run the World Bank’s sister organization, the International Monetary Fund. There had been some speculation that Obama might break with precedent and nominate a non-American, as many in the developing world have been pushing for, and speculation earlier Friday had focused on Nigerian Finance Minister Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, a former top World Bank official.