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The huge gap between the planet’s haves and have-nots isn’t just an abstract economic issue for Ko-Yung Tung, the recently departed general counsel of the World Bank. Tung, 56, knows the extremes of poverty and wealth firsthand. Though he was born in Beijing, the Chinese civil war forced his family to flee in 1947 to Japan, still reeling from the devastation of World War II. As a young man Tung came to study in the United States, and has lived in the richest nation ever since. Tung’s life story made him a natural for the World Bank post. Ever since its founding almost 60 years ago, the organization has tried to bridge the chasm between the affluent nations that provide its funding and the poverty-stricken countries that receive its aid. Last year The World Bank Group (its formal name) provided $19.5 billion in loans to projects in more than 100 countries. After four years in the job, Tung resigned as GC this summer, returning to his old firm, O’Melveny & Myers. He recently spoke with assistant editor Heather Smith about the role that private companies play in global development. Corporate Counsel: Nation-building seems more of a priority than ever, as Afghanistan, Iraq, and Liberia struggle to rebuild after the destruction of war. How can the World Bank help private companies work safely and successfully in places like these? Ko-Yung Tung: If there is conflict, the World Bank doesn’t go in. Once conflict has ceased, the World Bank will step in . . . . In Afghanistan private companies have been very, very important because what’s necessary is reconstruction of the roads that have been all bombed out, the schoolhouses that have been bombed out, the water that doesn’t run, the electricity that is not there. CC: Should private companies wait for the World Bank to take the lead before entering a developing country? KYT: The philosophy of the World Bank is that it’s the lender of last resort. If Citibank or Deutsche Bank is there to provide money, let them do it. World Bank money should be saved for those places where private financiers are loath to go in. Similarly, if businesses feel comfortable enough going in, let them do it. [But] in certain countries and situations, it’s almost necessary to piggyback on the World Bank. CC: You were appointed by President Clinton in 1996 to the United States � Pacific Trade and Investment Policy Commission. Did you find that U.S. companies were a positive or harmful presence in the developing world? KYT: I went to Indonesia to look at various factories [operated by U.S. companies and allegedly run as sweatshops]. The conditions were not great. However, these factories were far better than other factories [operated by non�U.S. companies]. Workers had clean toilets; there was clean water to wash their hands . . . . [We] can still criticize [U.S. companies], because there is always room for improvement, but we also should be supportive of multinationals who are trying to do good and bring employment. CC: What role do companies play in a country when a World Bank project ends? KYT: I’m a great proponent of a company staying, but domesticating . . . . Rather than fly in people from New York, you train the local people so they get the skill sets, they get the knowledge import . . . . Developing countries have often criticized Western companies of just coming in and taking what they want and moving out, without leaving anything there. CC: How much of a threat is anti-Americanism to U.S. companies operating abroad? KYT: Anti-Americanism has come from various mistakes that companies and governments have made, and [sometimes from] total myths. On the whole, most people don’t love us, they don’t hate us, [but] they are wary. [Still], they have a general openness to certain of the good things that we have: democracy, the rule of law, high standards of living. CC: You were born in Beijing, but your family had to leave because of the Chinese civil war. Then your family settled in Japan, which was also ravaged by war. How has your personal history as a refugee shaped your views on nation-building? KYT: Japan in 1947 was devastated because of the war. They had no food. All the buildings were firebombed. I remember poverty firsthand. Growing up under those circumstances, being a refugee with nothing to go on � there’s always been a desire on my part to do something to alleviate that situation. CORRECTION:When this article was published, we incorrectly stated that Ko-Yung Tung resigned from the World Bank this summer. He left the World Bank Group as of April, but formally resigned as general counsel on December 31, 2002. We regret the error.

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