Jim Yong Kim, 52, was appointed the 12th president of the World Bank last week. The Korean-American physicist was also the 17th president of Dartmouth College, the first time that an Asian-American became the president of an Ivy League institution.
Along with being an academic overachiever, a crusader against HIV and a half-decent golfer, the World Bank chief is also a closet entertainer. He once performed at Dartmouth’s ‘idol’ contest, where he sang, danced and rapped in a psychedelic white outfit with snazzy sneakers and a fedora. He ended by striking a gangsta pose and singing I’ve had the time of my life. Do we love this one or not?
This colourful physicist was born in Seoul in 1959, and moved to America at the age of five. Kim was always an excellent student. After studying at University of Iowa, he transferred to Brown University, where he graduated magna cum laude in 1982. He was also awarded an MD from Harvard Medical School in 1991, and a PhD from Harvard University, Department of Anthropology, in 1993.
One of Kim’s remarkable achievements was co-founding an initiative called Partners in Health in 1987. This was initiated in Haiti and aimed at treating infectious diseases at a low cost. Kim worked on creating treatment protocols and cutting deals for cheaper yet more effective drugs. This model was also adopted in Peru, and since then has been used in almost 40 countries. In 2003, Kim left to join the WHO, where he worked to help emerging countries scale up their HIV/AIDS programmes.
His current appointment has been described as progressive—as all previous presidents have been White men—and also a way for America to retain its hold on the World Bank with an obscure but highly qualified choice. To his critics, Kim’s impressive run in academia and the non-profit sector doesn’t make up for his inexperience in finance and economics.