The World Bank chose Korean-American physician Jim Yong Kim as its next chief Monday in a decision that surprised few despite the first-ever challenge to the US lock on the Bank's presidency.


The Bank's directors chose Kim, a 52 year old US health expert and educator, over Nigerian Finance Minister Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, who had argued that the huge lender needs reorientation under someone from the developing world.

Kim, 52 and currently president of the Ivy League University Dartmouth, will replace outgoing President Robert Zoellick, the former US diplomat who is departing in June at the end of his five-year term.

The Bank's directors expressed "deep appreciation" to Kim, Okonjo-Iweala and a third candidate, Colombian economist Jose Antonio Ocampo, who pulled out of the race Friday.

"Their candidacies enriched the discussion of the role of the president and of the World Bank Group's future direction," the Bank said in a statement.

"The final nominees received support from different member countries, which reflected the high caliber of the candidates."

Nevertheless, there had been little doubt about the choice of Kim, even as he breaks the pattern of American bankers and diplomats being named to lead the huge development bank.

By a longstanding pact Washington has chosen the head of the World Bank while Europe has held control of who leads its sister institution, the International Monetary Fund.

Photo of US President Barack Obama pictured during the nomination announcement of Jim Yong Kim (L) for president of the World Bank, as Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner looks on. Kim was named to the post Monday via AFP