Ban's UN, S. Korean Nationals Placed in Other UN Offices Avoid "Regular
Matthew Russell Lee of Inner City Press at the UN 5th
UNITED NATIONS, May
25 -- After eight days of questions, it emerged Friday that of the five South
Koreans Ban Ki-moon brought into his Executive Office of the Secretary General
earlier this year, the two that were assigned to other offices still "perform
tasks that are closely related to EOSG work," and avoided the normal
recruitment, interview and evaluation processes applicable to the offices they
terse statement read out at Friday's noon press briefing, spokesperson Michele
Montas said that in light of repeated questions at the briefing, "as indicated
repeatedly, there are five nationals from the Republic of Korea who came with
the Secretary General." Ms. Montas said that the Secretary General has
authority "to appoint staff to his own office outside the regular procedures."
from Minute 8:40.
a week after
refusing to provide the name of a person
brought in by Ban Ki-moon and
placed in the Department of Management, and two days after
providing the name: Kweon Ki-hwan.
Inner City Press asked if the statement Ms. Montas read out meant that Mr. Kweon
is "in Ban Ki-moon's office on the 38th floor?"
Montas answered. "This professional is in the Department of Management, just as
there is a professional who is in my office, who is in the Department of Public
City Press then asked, since the authority to go "outside the regular
procedures" was said to be limited to those in the Secretary-General's own
office, if for these two in DM and DPI were given posts after "interviews and a
process." Ms. Montas nodded yes. Video
from Minute 13:22.
later, Ms. Montas sent an email that
"The five staff
members from the Republic of Korea ,who were appointed by the Secretary-General,
were appointed to the Executive Office of the Secretary-General (EOSG). Two of
them, Choi Soung-ah and Kweon Ki-hwan, have been assigned to other departments –
the Department of Public Information and the Department of Management
respectively. But they remain staff members of EOSG, and perform tasks that are
closely related to EOSG work."
So the position is that the two are "in"
the Departments of Management and Public Information, to which recruiting,
interview and evaluation procedures apply, but are technically "staff members of
the Executive Office of the SG," allowing them to bypass the recruiting,
interview and evaluation procedures.
for questions -- but only if they like them, some say
In the past week, numerous UN staff
members afraid of retaliation have urged Inner City Press to ask through what
process these non-38th floor posts were given. Others uses the word "plants" or
"minders" to describe the job functions. A sample email Inner City Press has
received, followed by more from Ms. Montas' formal missive:
Subject: Attn: Matthew Lee, Senior
From: [Anonymity requested]
To: Matthew.Lee [at] innercitypress.com
Sent: Fri, 25 May 2007 11:03 am
hi - good reporting and keep it up. On the
Koreans in Secretariat story, I think the question to ask is this:
"No previous UN Secretary-General has
brought more than a single national to work in his office, usually as a personal
assistant or press officer (Kofi Annan brought zero, Boutros brought one
Egyptian... to be his personal spokesman, Perez de Cuellar brought on junior
diplomat to help him. Why has Ban Ki-Moon needed to bring so many and appoint
them to such high positions (ASG, D1, etc)? What is different?"
There is a Korean 'team' which is a
virtual cabinet, shadowing and if necessary circumventing all normal systems.
publishing the above, Inner City Press notes, for example, that other say that
Boutros brought in two Egyptians.
Subject: Fw: Michele - Noon question(s) in
writing as request: who can see The List, S-G/Bashir communications, and Fiji
peacekeepers follow-up, thanks
From: Michele Montas [at] un.org
To: matthew.lee [at] innercitypress.com
Sent: Fri, 25 May 2007 1:39 pm
Matthew, One clarification:
The five staff members from the Republic
of Korea ,who were appointed by the Secretary-General, were appointed to the
Executive Office of the Secretary-General (EOSG). Two of them, Choi Soung-ah and
Kweon Ki-hwan, have been assigned to other departments -- the Department of
Public Information and the Department of Management respectively. But they
remain staff members of EOSG, and perform tasks that are closely related to EOSG
While we recognize your right to report,
the publication and singling out of UN staffers simply because of the passport
they carry is unfair to these international civil servants. It is especially
unfair to have targeted nationals of the Republic of Korea who were in the
organization before Ban Ki-moon became Secretary-General.
As requested and in accordance with UN
policy on staff privacy, we would appreciate it if you removed that list from
your website. I specifically told you that the document listing the names of all
UN staffers was strictly for background information and could not be published.
I am truly disappopinted [sic] that once more you did not respect the
journalistic norms on background information. Michele
"once more" reference is to a briefing given to dozens of UN correspondents by a
person who insisted on only being identified as "a senior UN official," and who
proceeded to repeatedly state that a white plane used by the Sudanese government
in Darfur, with "UN" on its wing, came from Kazakhstan. Later, Inner City Press'
research, still not contested by the UN, matched the number on the plane's wing
with a Russian airline, and after deliberation,
Inner City Press did not name the UN
briefer, but stated his nationality,
City Press was approached by an individual in the UN Department of Public
Information -- apparently no one in the UN is supposed to be named -- and had
what seemed to be a clarifying conversation. Among other things, Inner City
Press advised that particularly in light of the UN's position that as an
inter-governmental body they must defer to member states (most recently
canceling a human rights film about the Hmong at the request of Vietnam, click
here for that),
the UN should not be requesting anonymity in order to accuse, as it now appears
falsely, a member state. The conversation seemed productive.
Now Ms. Montas bootstraps on the "white plane" situation to claim that Inner
City Press' use of the List of Staff of the UN Secretariat, which Inner City
Press did not access in Ms. Montas' office in light of her demand that this only
be on "background" and could not be used. Inner City Press was provided with the
information by a source, without any restriction, just as the Sudan white plane
story originated by a leak of a then-confidential UN report to a UN
Montas and DPI did not ask that the white plane information not be published, or
be retracted. But now the claim is that since the UN made an offer of the List
on background -- an offer that was rejected -- the UN can now state that it is
disappointed that information that it characterizes as background was published.
Inner City Press -- and the
Swiss mission to the
UN, as previously reported -- dispute that the List should be withheld, and
Inner City Press obtained it from another source, and even then redacted a
portion of it, contract status.
worth noting, as simply one example, that the U.S. State Department phone book
of names and posts is on its Web site. In fact, public UN information lists
names, and the definition (by "grade") of posts. So apparently the claim is that
nationality is confidential, even though the UN has a hiring system (called
"desirable ranges") that is explicitly based on nationality.
accommodate this request, however, Inner City Press today redacts from its
May 22 article the
names of the 51 South Koreans employed in the UN Secretariat in mid-2006,
pre-Ban. Inner City Press has asked that this number be updated; there has been
no response yet to that request. To be clear, the number at December 31, 2006
may have been higher than 51. Inner City Press is told by well placed sources
that the Department of Economic and Social Affairs, DESA, noticeably started
hiring South Koreans after Mr. Ban's selection as S-G, but before the end of the
that should in the interim be answered: what was the number on December 31,
2006; what is the number now, and when and how frequently will updates be
And as to
the claim at Friday's noon briefing that there was an interview and evaluation
process for the post, the vacancy announcements should be produced.
statement made at Friday's noon briefing was that "all posts on the 38th floor
were staffed through a competitive process." Video
from Minute 12:35.This has elicited laughter from several of Inner City Press'
sources, distilled to a question: was there a competitive process for the posts
of Messrs. Kim Won-soo, Lee Sang-hwa and Yoon Yeocheol? But we'll assume that
the "all" was mis-spoken. And we'll hope for -- and invest time in -- a better
question-and-answer process next week.
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