Ban Ki-moon's speeches

Opening remarks to the press in Seoul (Republic of Korea)

Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, Seoul (Republic of Korea), 26 August 2013

Good morning, ladies and gentlemen, It is a great pleasure to see you.

Let me begin by addressing the alarming crisis in Syria.

The United Nations team on the ground, led by Dr. Sellstrom, has been working intensively around the clock to respond to the latest reports of alleged use of chemical weapons.

I have been in constant contact with many world leaders as well as my senior staff at New York Headquarters and in Damascus..

The UN Investigation Mission was in Syria before this most recent horrific attack. Now, following talks in the country between my High Representative for Disarmament, Ms. Angela Kane, and top Syrian officials, the Mission is expected to begin conducting on-site fact-finding activities today, 26th of August, in just a matter of hours.

And every hour counts. We cannot afford any more delays. We have all seen the horrifying images on our television screens and through social media. Clearly this was a major and terrible incident..

We owe it to the families of the victims to act.

All those in Syria have a stake in finding out the truth. The whole world should be concerned about any threat or use of chemical weapons. And that is why the world is watching Syria.

I demand that all parties allow this mission to get on with the job so that we can begin to establish the facts. The team must be able to conduct a full, thorough and unimpeded investigation. I have total confidence in their expertise, professionalism and integrity.

Their success is in everyone’s interest – all parties in Syria and all concerned States. It will address the recent allegations in the Damascus area and its success can have a deterrent effect on possible further use of chemical weapons in Syria and elsewhere.

We are determined to answer the call of our Member States, fulfill our mandate and resolve deeply disturbing unanswered questions.

If proven, any use of chemical weapons by anyone under any circumstances is a serious violation of international law and an outrageous crime. We cannot allow impunity in what appears to be a grave crime against humanity.

At the same time, it remains essential to achieve a complete cessation of hostilities, so that humanitarian assistance can urgently be delivered. All parties to this conflict should agree on an indefinite ceasefire.

Now let me speak in Korean. [Original remarks in Korean translated into English]

Regarding Egypt, very disturbing conditions continue. In the great, historic whirlwind known as the Arab Spring, the Egyptian people achieved victory that set them toward freedom and democracy. However, after former President Mohamad Morsi was ousted from office recently, Egypt has been plagued by extreme polarization and violent clashes, costing countless human lives. As Secretary-General this leaves me with a great sense of sadness. Immediately after my recent visit to Israel and Palestine, I sent my Under-Secretary-General, Mr. Jeffrey Feltman, who is in charge of Political Affairs, to the Middle East, and we have been doing our best in cooperation with the concerned States to ease tensions there. I would like to take this opportunity to once again strongly urge the Egyptian military as well as all leaders of various political blocs to put an immediate stop to the violence and embark on a process of national reconciliation and unity. All leaders must look beyond partisan interests to find a political resolution through engagement and compromise. This should be based on a perspective of placing the utmost priority on the happiness and wellbeing of the people.

Ladies and gentlemen,

This is my first visit to the Republic of Korea since President Park Geun-hye took office, and I have found this visit to be very meaningful as I was able to reaffirm the Korean Government’s commitment to furthering its cooperation with the United Nations in the process of resolving various global challenges. As President Park had said in her inaugural speech, the President again reiterated her commitment to make an active contribution to creating an era of global happiness. With not much time left to the 2015 target for achieving the Millennium Development Goals regarding poverty reduction, I do believe that the Republic of Korea can play a major role as a successful case study of economic development. I thank President Park for Korea’s commitment to Official Development Assistance (ODA) at the level of 0.25 percent of GDP despite the continued uncertainties of the global economy, which has been a commitment made by the Republic of Korea to the international community. Given the international community’s expectations on Korea’s competence and experience, I am sure that enhancing the Government’s ODA will be an effective way of earning greater trust and respect.

President Park and I also had an in-depth discussion of our cooperation on a number of agenda issues that are in focus at the UN: climate change, water, energy, food security, international health, education and women’s empowerment. The international community today is faced with challenges where many issues are intricately interlinked. Such challenges will not be resolved by a single country or a handful of countries. Sustainable development will not be achievable if we miss any issues. I am putting the highest priority on building the international community’s consensus to achieve sustainable development. The UN General Assembly, scheduled next month, will also focus on this issue. I look forward to the Korean Government’s leadership in the course of drafting the international community’s development agenda after the MDGs, which are targeted for 2015. I thank the Korean Government for the launch of the Development Alliance Korea last year. And today through the Post-2015 Korea Forum, the current Government will be showing its commitment to active participation and contribution to MDG implementation and shaping the development agenda after 2015.

In my visit to Korea this time, I was able to discuss ways for Korea to enhance its contribution to the international community with such important members as Speaker of the National Assembly Kang Chang-hee, Prime Minister Jung Hong-won, Deputy Prime Minister Hyun Oh-suk, Minister of Foreign Affairs Yun Byung-se and President of Korea International Cooperation Agency (KOICA) Kim Young-mok.

Ladies and gentlemen,

This year, the sixtieth anniversary of the armistice of the Korean War, has a special meaning for peace and stability on the Korean Peninsula. Since late last year, tension had been mounting on the Korean Peninsula, following North Korea’s long-range rocket launch and the third round of nuclear testing. But the international community acted decisively against North Korea’s provocations. The UN Security Council has sent a clear and strong message that North Korea’s nuclear armament will not be tolerated. China also agreed to the Security Council resolution that included comprehensive sanctions against the North. Through this process, Korea, as a member of the Security Council, played a leading role in adopting the resolution and implementing follow-up activities. I highly praise President Park’s principled, decisive and disciplined approach to North Korea throughout the process. As the UN Secretary-General, I will spare no effort and support in the process of realizing President Park’s vision of Trustpolitik on the Korean Peninsula to fundamentally improve inter-Korean relations by easing tension and building trust.

I am greatly pleased that the authorities of the two Koreas have reached an agreement to normalize and develop Kaesung Industrial Complex. Kaesung is a success case of inter-Korean economic cooperation model and I hope for its stable development in the future. I am also happy about the achievements coming out of the working-level meeting to enable the reunion of separated families between the two Koreas. I hope that the two Koreas will carry on the momentum to make constructive progress on other issues such as the North Korean nuclear programme. In this context, I look forward to progress being made in building an international peace park in the Demilitarized Zone as proposed by President Park. I take it as a proposal to build mutual trust on the occasion of the sixtieth anniversary of the armistice, and when requested by the parties concerned, I would be willing to offer my good offices to help realize this project.

I also highly commend the Korean Government’s principle to maintain humanitarian aid to North Korea regardless of political factors. The UN has been working on humanitarian programmes for vulnerable groups in North Korea such as infants and children. We have also steadily improved monitoring of such humanitarian activities. But the UN agencies active in the North are suffering from serious funding difficulties. Against this backdrop, I especially praise and thank the Korean Government for its recent decision to provide North Korea humanitarian aid through UNICEF. We have recently announced a need for more financial resources for this year, and I look forward to an active response from donor countries.

Ladies and gentlemen,

A multilateral approach is growing in importance today as the global community grapples with many global challenges. At the heart of such a multilateral approach is the UN. I have been working hard to promote interest in global challenges among all actors of the 193 UN Member countries, not only Governments but also businesses, civil society, academia, religious groups and the media. Korea is an indispensible partner in such activities of the UN. I ask for continued support from the Korean Government and the people. I will be leaving Korea tomorrow after visit lasting six days. Allow me to express my deep appreciation to President Park, the Korean Government, and the people for their warm hospitality. I wish you and your family health and good luck and wish Korea continued success.

Thank you.