In announcing its decision Monday to pick Kim, president of Dartmouth College and an expert in public health, the World Bank's executive directors thanked their outgoing president, Robert B. Zoellick, and the two other nominees who sought the job, Nigerian Finance Minister Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala and Jose Antonio Ocampo, former finance minister of Colombia.
The United States has had a lock on the World Bank leadership since its creation in 1944, just as a European national has held the top post at the International Monetary Fund, another major post-World War II institution.
But in recent years, officials from emerging economies in Asia, Latin America and Africa have sought greater representation and changes in what they see as an outdated structure reflecting the conventional powers of the West.
Kim had the endorsement from President Obama and other notable American leaders, and he was widely assumed to receive a stamp of approval from the World Bank board, which adopted a more-open selection process last year.
Even though Kim was recognized for his achievements and leadership in the area of global health_he is also an anthropologist_analysts noted that he did not have the experience in finance and diplomacy of the other nominees.
Kim, 52, has spent much of his career as an educator and leader in the cause of global health. He was a former director of the World Health Organization's department of HIV/AIDS, and is a co-founder of Partners in Health, a Boston nonprofit that partners with impoverished communities in Haiti, Peru, Russia, Rwanda and other countries to provide medical care and social services.
Kim moved with his family to the United States from South Korea at age 5 and grew up in Muscatine, Iowa. He graduated from Brown University and received his medical degree from Harvard.
He will begin his five-year term as president of World Bank in July. The 187-member institution focuses on development loans and fighting poverty.