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DEVELOPMENT REPORT – February 3, 2003: WHO Director-General Named - 2003-01-31

This is the VOA Special English Development Report.

South Korean doctor Jong Wook Lee has been named the new director-general of the World Health Organization. He will replace former Norwegian Prime Minister Gro Harlem Brundtland who is leaving in July after five years in office.

Doctor Lee’s nomination was announced last month at W-H-O headquarters in Geneva, Switzerland. The organization’s thirty-two member supervisory committee chose him from a group of five candidates. The full one-hundred-ninety-two-nation World Health Assembly must approve his nomination in May.

Doctor Lee will be the first South Korean to lead the U-N agency, which has a yearly budget of more than one-thousand-million dollars. He has worked for the World Health Organization for nineteen years and is currently the head of its anti-tuberculosis program.

Jong Wook Lee said his main goal will be fighting health problems in Africa, especially AIDS and the H-I-V virus that causes it. He also praised Doctor Brundtland’s work over the past few years to fight infectious diseases and diseases caused by smoking. He said these programs will continue. But, Doctor Lee added that the W-H-O will soon face new health problems around the world. He says that the agency must take a position on new technologies, such as genetic copying or cloning.

Doctor Lee will be the sixth director-general of the W-H-O since the U-N health agency was established in nineteen-forty-eight. Other W-H-O heads have been from Canada, Brazil, Denmark and Japan. Doctor Brundtland was the first woman to lead the World Health Organization.

Supporters say she will be remembered most for her efforts to reduce tobacco use around the world. Doctor Brundtland argued that tobacco is a major preventable cause of millions of deaths each year. She worked hard to prove that smoking was a leading cause of slow economic growth and development in poor nations. W-H-O member countries are expected to approve the organization’s first ever treaty on tobacco during its yearly meeting in May.

The World Health Organization leads the international fight against deadly diseases, including malaria and tuberculosis. The agency is also responsible for setting international requirements for medicines, health care and food safety.

This VOA Special English Development Report was written by Jill Moss.