Apparently, UN staff are underwhelmed at the choice of Ban Ki Moon as the next secretary-general.
"The mood among staff is glum," one of the officials said. "We are not very excited about the outcome." With morale low at the UN after five years dominated by divisions, deadlock and corruption, they are sceptical about Mr Ban's ability to turn the organisation round or provide the strong, inspirational leadership they had been hoping for.
A Korean foreign ministry spokesman responded:
"In the Oriental culture, leadership is assessed in a different way. One can look very affable, very gentle, but inside his mind he has a strong conviction ... Appearance is one thing, his firm beliefs and readiness to make tough decisions is another."
So far, Mr Ban's strong convictions and firm beliefs remain obscured. He's a career diplomat, so his practice has been to be self-effacing. I've got four areas of concern about him: his relationship with America; the North Korean problem; his religious beliefs; and how Sun Myung Moon will respond.
1. America. The Americans support his candidacy. Mr Ban chose his career path when,
As a high school student in 1962, Ban won an English speaking contest, winning a trip to Washington to meet then President John F. Kennedy. He says it was at that time he decided to become a diplomat.
In the '70s and '80s he spent much time in the US, serving at the South Korean embassy and at the UN. Meanwhile, he studied for and achieved a master's at the JF Kennedy School of Government, Harvard. Watching a Sky TV video interview with him [here], I was struck by how influenced he seemed by American political mores. So, how will his instinctive pro-Americanism play in keeping world peace?
2. North Korea. It may be that Ban Ki Moon's elevation will greatly help deal with the North Korean problem - if so, great. But it may also further destabilize the peninsula. How will the North Koreans react?
3. Ban's religion. I wrote about this below. Korean Christianity is a weird and wonderful thing. Mr Ban is a 'non-denominational Christian', according to the ROK foreign ministry. What does that mean? What theology does he adhere to? How does he view, say, Islam, or Baha'ism, or Unificationism? Are they as equally valid as his own faith? Does he believe in the imminence of the endtimes? Etc.
4. The Unification Church. This is my main concern. Wayne Madsen has been mentioning this for several days, although his conclusions are questionable. I agree with John Gorenfeld, who left a comment on my last entry, that Mr Ban is surely not a Unificationist. But the links between the ROK government and the UC are murky but there. Madsen writes today that he's received many emails from Moonies, denying the substance of Madsen's posts but nevertheless all being supportive of Mr Ban's candidacy. That would fit with my hunch that Sun Myung Moon probably welcomes this development. But will he expect favours from Mr Ban? What if Mr Ban doesn't react as Mr Moon wants? Such a conflict mightn't be good for the UN.