American president Barack Obama has nominated Jim Yong Kim, a global health policy expert and the president of Dartmouth College, to run the World Bank.
Though Kim has been living in America since shortly after getting out of diapers, the South Korean media will no doubt have a week of self-congratulatory backslapping in honor of his DNA with little mind paid to his being about as American as one can get.
A friend of mine from New Zealand said that as an American I simply will never understand when a country lays claim to famous or infamous Americans because of ethnic ties.
He’s right. I don’t understand it. If it was your family member, a neighbor or even someone you met in the checkout line, then OK, you can revel in a sense of pride. But if not, why?
The puzzling who does the American born and bred Jeremy Lin belong to argument between China and Taiwan comes immediately to mind.
Sometimes the ethnic “he’s one of us” connection goes to great extremes such as was seen with Korean American Virginia Tech gunmen, Seung Hui-cho. Following the massacre, there was an outpouring of grief among South Koreans as they struggled to understand how a “Korean” could have done such a terrible thing.
Then president, Roh Moo-hyun called a press conference to address the issue, (he even telephoned President Bush, who was reportedly befuddled by the call, to personally apologize) the Ministry of Foreign Affairs issued a statement and a Korean university held a public prayer session for the victims.
Puzzling, though I guess quaint in a way.
At any rate, the appointment of Kim to the World Bank is being heralded as “groundbreaking.” Kim will be the first person from a minority community to head the bank. Just as Kim’s appointment as the first Asian-American to head an Ivy League university in 2009 was groundbreaking.
While the world will question the appointment of an American, Obama can’t win either way on this. If he had appointed a non-American in an election year, Romney and Santorum would paint him as even more anti-American than they already do.
If the administration had pushed a non-American for the job, this could have been attacked as Obama fostering the decline of American influence in the world,” said former IMF official Eswar Prasad, now an economics professor at Cornell University. “In an election year, Obama would have been accused of caving in to outside pressures and not being willing to protect U.S. interests.