UNITED NATIONS - South Korean Ban Ki-Moon took the oath of office as the eighth UN secretary-general at a ceremony in the UN General Assembly yesterday.
He takes over from Kofi Annan in the new year.
Both Ban, 62, and Annan, a 68-year-old Ghanaian, are being honoured by the 192-member body with speeches and a resolution.
In the oath of office, administered by assembly president Sheika Haya Rashed Al Khalifa, Ban will swear "not to seek or accept instructions in regard to the performance of my duties from any government or other authority external to the organisation".
A former foreign minister, Ban was selected by the 15-member UN Security Council in October and then approved by the Assembly as the first Asian head of the organisation in 35 years.
Still little is known about Ban's policies or future appointments, particularly compared with his high-profile predecessor, who travelled widely and spoke out on world issues, sometimes to the chagrin of the US. Quiet and unassuming, Ban has made few missteps during his life-long career as a Korean diplomat.
John Bolton, the outgoing US ambassador, made it clear that he wanted more of a secretary than a general by saying repeatedly that the UN Charter described the job only as the "chief administrative officer".
But in an interview after his election, Ban cautioned those who call him low-key not to mistake him for a pushover.
"I may look low-key or [be] soft-spoken, but that does not mean that I lack leadership or commitment," he said.
Modesty and humility were considered virtues by Asians, he said, but should not be misunderstood because "I make decisive decisions whenever necessary".
Ban will start his five-year term in what Annan has called the world's most impossible job with a daunting agenda that stretches from the threats of nuclear proliferation and terrorism to reform of the UN.
But the future secretary-general showed he was capable of poking fun at himself at a dinner, saying he was well aware that in Seoul journalists called him a "Slippery Eel" and in New York the "Teflon Diplomat".
"These names may reflect different cultures. But they all point to one and the same thing: when I want to, I will elude you as masterfully as any secret agent."
He ended by borrowing from the Christmas carol Santa Claus is Coming to Town and sang: "I'm making a list, I'm checking it twice, I'm going to find out who's naughty or nice.
"Ban Ki-Moon is coming to town." - Reuters