UNITED NATIONS. KIM'S "NEW CULTURE" -- U.N. TO PAY FOR TRAVEL TO VISIT WIFE

 

15 SEPTEMBER 2014

KIM'S "NEW CULTURE" -- U.N. TO PAY FOR TRAVEL TO VISIT WIFE

The moment Mr. Kim Won-soo stepped into the U.N. in January 2007, he blubbered about wanting "to change U.N. culture and introduce a new one". He was dubbed Kim Too-soon for proclaiming a somewhat arrogant and dismissive view of his new workplace before even meeting the team. Since then, we've been wondering what that "new culture" precisely was about and trying to explore various activities of the chief's chief shadow for a possibly helpful clue. What behavior would the new order imply?

Most international civil servants were under the impression that their culture was that of dedicated and enlightened performance, team work strengthened by a variety of cultures, and ability to deliver to all Member States. After all, as we repeatedly pointed out, a Secretary-General like Dag Hammarskjold paid the ultimate price. So many senior prominent officials and a great number of unknown soldiers have dedicated their careers and lives for U.N. objectives. What did a transient passerby have in mind for our beloved Organisation?

Perhaps, we speculated, Mr. Kim's attitude would give a hint. But he often remained in the shadows. The only public mention was a couple of years ago when it was proposed to promote him from Assistant Secretary-General to Under-Secretary-General under the guise of overseeing change. No convincing effort was made to explain the details/purpose of such a proposal when openly questioned by the Advisory Committee on Administrative and Budgetary Questions (ACABQ) and the Assembly's 5th Committee. It was unceremoniously turned down in the same manner that it had been proposed.

Recently, however, there may have been a sign of Mr. Kim's "new culture." When the Secretary-General went to China in August, he took along his close associate Mr. Kim. Besides the need to have a close Korean-speaking associate, there was no reasonably persuasive reason for Mr. Kim to join - except one. His wife is the distinguished Ambassador of South Korea to China and quite bluntly it was an opportunity for him to visit his wife. That was of course a wonderful family occasion and the Secretary-General is entitled to have anyone of his choice to join him in an official mission. But for his own credibility and that of the United Nations, did the U.N. have to pay for a return ticket? Or, New York to Beijing for a family visit? Was that to become habitual practice for a selected few? Are there more forthcoming signals?

Would it entail for example toying with the investments of the Staff Pension Fund?

Perhaps we are yet to grasp all the implications of that "new culture."