In that rarest of Washington events, a surprise choice, President Obama will nominate Dartmouth College President Jim Yong Kim to head up the World Bank. After confirming that there is, in fact, a Jim Yong Kim and this is not Larry Summers in disguise (“Barry Mummers” would have been too on the nose), I looked into Kim’s credentials.

The Korean-born Kim is a physician by training and a prominent figure in global health and development circles. Officials believe his experience will help counter criticism from developing countries that have grown weary of the U.S. stranglehold on the World Bank presidency.

Obama took a strong personal interest in filling the World Bank vacancy after current president Robert Zoellick announced in February he was stepping down. Obama and his advisers considered more than a dozen candidates, including well-known figures in the administration. But in the end, officials said, Obama pushed for a nominee with broad development experience and was particularly drawn to Kim’s innovative work fighting the spread of AIDS and tuberculosis.

Hillary Clinton will appear at the White House Rose Garden announcement, and according to AP she recommended Kim for the job, along with her husband.

This looks like a fine choice, outside of the not-Larry-Summers aspects of it. Kim has the proper set of experiences for the position – he’s been an executive manager and he has a strong background in global development and health, which is at least supposed to be the role of the World Bank. Jeffrey Sachs’ entire rationale for his candidacy was that you need a strong leader in global development, and Kim has those qualities. Being Korean-born should help mollify the global desire to have a non-American in the position. The World Bank executive board still has to vote on the nomination, and they will have other potential nominees, including Colombia’s Jose Antonio Ocampo, and Nigerian finance minister Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala. But given that the US is the World Bank’s largest funder, I’d guess that Kim has the inside track. Here’s a profile of Kim from when he took the Presidency of Dartmouth in 2009.

This could have worked out a whole lot worse. Summers would have been a disaster, and the global outcry against his candidacy probably did the trick as far as that went. The Administration could have picked a bigger name with less real-world skills relevant to the job, but instead they appear to have filled it with the best choice on a number of levels.

Good work from the Administration on this one.

And I expect the conservative “he picked Kim Jong-il to run the World Bank” jokes any minute now.

…I may have to rethink this, considering how much Fred Hiatt likes him.