United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, accompanied by Madam Ban Soon‑taek, arrived in Seoul from Tokyo on Tuesday afternoon, 9 August. It was his first trip home since he was reappointed for a second term as Secretary-General.
On Wednesday morning, the Secretary-General spoke at a Global Compact breakfast event, thanking the Korean business community for their work in support of the United Nations and encouraging them to be even more engaged in promoting social justice and sustainable development.
The Secretary-General also spoke at a United Nations Academic Impact forum, telling the audience that the initiative to harness academic power to tackle global challenges has grown encouragingly since it was launched just last year. He said the academic community was among other new partners injecting fresh dynamism into the work of the United Nations. The Secretary-General said there were three areas in particular where the academic community could make a difference — food and nutrition security, sustainable development and promoting tolerance. (See Press Release SG/SM/13741)
Speaking at the Yonhap International Press Photo Awards on the Millennium Development Goals, the Secretary-General called for an accelerated push to meet the targets. He said that 2015, which world leaders set as the year to achieve the Millennium Development Goals, was just around the corner. Now is the time to start the final spurt. Now is the time for the active participation of all players, including companies and civic groups, along with Governments.
Following a luncheon hosted by the Speaker of the National Assembly, Park Hee-tae, Mr. Ban met with the Millennium Development Goals Working Group of the National Assembly.
He then paid a courtesy call on Venerable Jaseung, President of the Jogye Order of Korean Buddhism at the Korea Buddhism Historic and Cultural Museum in Insadong. The Secretary-General emphasized the important role that religious leaders can play in helping the United Nations achieve its goals of peace, development and human rights. He recalled his visit in 2008 to the birthplace of the Buddha in Lumbini, Nepal, and expressed hope that the area, designated as a World Heritage Site by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), would flourish.
The Venerable Jaseung informed the Secretary-General of his plans to visit Paris and meet with UNESCO Director-General Irina Bokova to discuss how the Jogye Order can contribute to the agency’s work. The Secretary-General welcomed this initiative and encouraged the Venerable Jaseung to continue using his influence to support the United Nations.
That evening, the Secretary-General met South Korean President Lee Myung-bak at the Cheong Wa Dae Presidential Palace in Seoul, also known as the Blue House. In remarks at a dinner at the Palace, the Secretary-General thanked the Government for helping to fund United Nations food relief operations in the Horn of Africa. He said that because of the country’s economic development and democratization, the international community was increasingly looking to South Korea’s capacity and experience in addressing global challenges.
On Thursday, the Secretary-General attended the opening of the Global Model United Nations Conference in the city of Incheon. He told hundreds of students from more than 60 countries that they should never underestimate the power of the individual to make a difference. And he said the young generation was showing a growing resolve to change our world — and a capacity to make things happen through peaceful means. (See Press Release SG/SM/13742)
The Secretary-General also spoke that day to the Korean Chamber of Commerce and Industry in Seoul and later to an audience of students in Incheon. He told the Korean students to look beyond their own borders and to become global citizens. At the Chamber of Commerce, he urged major Korean business leaders to help support the work of the United Nations, and urged the Government to boost its overseas development assistance to be more in line with the country’s economic importance.
He also appeared on a special live television broadcast in which he was interviewed by the six main TV networks in the Republic of Korea.
On Friday, the Secretary-General met members of the diplomatic corps and a wide range of Korean dignitaries at a breakfast event. He outlined the United Nations priorities for the coming years, noting there was broad consensus among Member States that the focus should be foremost on sustainable development. He said global health, especially women’s and children’s health, would also be a priority, as well as nuclear disarmament. (See Press Release SG/SM/13744)
Later, the Secretary-General visited the South Korean Foreign Ministry, where he briefly met Kim Sung-hwan and then spoke to Ministry staff. He called for even greater opportunities for women in the Ministry and elsewhere in Korean society, and encouraged young Korean diplomats to have a broad global vision.
The Secretary-General also attended an event organized by the South Korean Red Cross and the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) to support children in Africa. He thanked the famous young Korean entertainers present for backing the project and asked them to use their reach to raise funds and awareness.
The Secretary-General met the Roman Catholic Archbishop of Seoul, Cardinal Chung Jin-suk. They discussed how religion can help promote the work of the United Nations, including in the fields of peace and security, development and human rights. The Secretary-General said he hoped the Korean Government and people would play an even more active role in resolving multiple crises facing the international community.
The Secretary-General spent Sunday visiting the village where he was born in Eumseong County and speaking to high school students at his old high school in nearby Chungju.
At a welcome ceremony hosted by Eumseong County, the Secretary-General thanked local government officials for their warm welcome and stressed that all of their efforts towards him should be invested in the United Nations. He urged participants to think of themselves not just as residents of Eumseong County, but as citizens of the world. “Global is local and local is global. You may live here in Eumseong County, but you have access to the world. Let us work together to make the world a better place.”
The Secretary-General later delivered a lecture at Chungju High School, his alma mater. He recalled the Principal telling him to keep his head above the clouds and his feet planted firmly on the ground. “Dream big and be realistic,” he told the audience. The Secretary-General observed that the students enjoyed far greater prosperity, security and opportunity than his generation, and he urged them not to forget that these gains were hard won through sacrifice. “Now you can go to better universities, you can live comfortably, but you should not be satisfied with that,” he said. He asked the students to engage in addressing poverty, hunger, climate change and other threats. “Each and every one of you can be a critical agent of change.”
The Secretary-General also paid respects at his father’s tomb on a hill above the village.
The Secretary-General returned to Seoul on Sunday afternoon and then flew back to New York that evening.
[Unless otherwise noted, the Secretary-General spoke in his native Korean; translations are not available.]