New York

02 June 2010

Remarks at Korea Society Dinner commemorating the 60th anniversary of the Korean War

Ban Ki-moon

Ambassador Hubbard, Chairman of the Korea Society,
Ambassador Minton, President of the Korea Society,
General Paik Sun Yup,
Secretary Colin Powell,
Excellencies,
Distinguished guests,
Ladies and Gentlemen,

My wife and I are delighted to be with you for this dinner.

The Korea Society is a very special part of the UN community.

Your commitment to peace on the Korean Peninsula.

Your efforts to promote better understanding of Korea and its people.

Your support for the United Nations.

These are all real contributions to our shared mission of peace, democracy and prosperity.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Some wide-ranging congratulations are in order tonight.

First, to Ambassador Hubbard for the way in which he has so capably taken over as Chairman of the Korea Society.

We see again the talent and wisdom he showed during his service in Korea in one of the most difficult periods in the U.S.-ROK relationship. We worked together in Washington D.C. and again in Seoul even after his retirement. I also remember with great admiration his contributions to the development of Songdo city in Korea.

And of course, one of his first -- and best decisions in his new capacity, along with the Board, was the selection of Ambassador Minton as the Society's new President.

Ambassador Minton, you know Asia well. You know the United Nations well, having served at the U.S. Mission. And you know my country well.

Your time at the U.S. mission to the United Nations overlapped with mine as foreign minister, and so we had many occasions to talk about Korea and to talk in Korean.

I wish you every success.

I also have no doubt that the new leadership team will continue the superb work of its predecessors -- my good friends Donald Gregg and Evans Revere.

Ambassador Gregg, you are true friend of Korea and the very architect of the Korea Society.

You were also one of the most effective U.S. ambassadors. I have heard that you had a very rare visa one signed personally by the Korean-Consul General in Washington at the time. I can confirm the story: I was that Consul General. I am glad to have had a role in sending you off to Seoul!

And Evans Revere, we are all aware of your great expertise on Northeast Asia. You have done a terrific job in scaling up the Korea Society's agenda and activities.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Let me turn now to the winners of this year's Van Fleet Award General Paik Sun Yup and Secretary Colin Powell.

Both are admired heroes in their countries. Both fought for peace. Both are an inspiration for younger generations.

General Paik, you are truly a living legend.

All Koreans know how heroically you led the desperate campaign to hold onto the southernmost portion of the Korean Peninsula.

That campaign, staged from a tiny piece of territory, not only stopped the offensive, but also paved the way for the daring and historic landing operation led by General McArthur at the mid-western port city of Incheon. This turned the tide of the war.

Nobody here would like to imagine what would have happened without your efforts without your firm defence around the Nakdong River perimeter. And even today, the Korean Army still uses manuals that incorporate strategies and tactics adopted by you during the war.

Tonight you are here on behalf of all those who fought and fell during the war as we remember their sacrifice.

General Paik, you richly deserve tonight's recognition. . It is an exceptional honour for me to convey heartfelt thanks for everything you did for the Korean people.

You and the other veterans with us tonight were among those to answer the call of the United Nations. I thank you for your service and wish you continued good health. I am happy to see you in such good shape as we all look forward to your 90th birthday in November.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

It is also a pleasure to have this opportunity to pay tribute to Secretary Powell.

In many respects, Secretary, you are an honorary Korean.

We all know how much you loved Korea during your service in [Dongducheon], at the frontline near the DMZ.

You like kimchi. You have a real love for Korean culture.

And just yesterday, you helped dedicate a new Korean War Memorial in Iowa. I was moved to hear you say that instead of calling the Korean conflict the forgotten war, it should be remembered as the forgotten victory.

But of course, our relationship goes well beyond Korea.

Just a few hours after my appointment as Foreign Minister was announced in January 2004, I received a call at my apartment from Secretary Powell. This was even before I received an official letter of appointment from my president.

This was a big surprise. Not just because it was Secretary Powell. But because my phone number was not public.

So I was impressed: above all by Secretary Powell's great warmth and thoughtfulness but also by the global reach of the State Department's switchboard!

Secretary Powell and I worked very well together. This was a challenging time for ROK-U.S. relations. But we were able to overcome any problems thanks to our mutual respect and friendship, and in the end we nurtured an even stronger alliance between our two countries.

I think Secretary Powell was also glad to have me in place for a while: I was actually the fifth Korean foreign minister during his tenure as Secretary of State!

He has moved on, of course. And I have worked well with his successor, Secretary Rice, and now in my new capacity I am working with Secretary Clinton.

Secretary Powell, this award recognizes everything you have done for Korea and for peace in the broadest sense.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

On the 25th of this month, we mark the 60th anniversary of the start of the Korean War. It is a sad anniversary, because that war brought such profound suffering and destruction to Korea and its people.

The war is of course of great significance to me personally. It shaped my conviction that everything should be done to prevent war. It also nurtured my deep belief in the United Nations.

It was the UN, after all, that came to help my country right after war broke out.

It was the women and men of the United Nations who were among those I saw delivering life-saving relief and who helped rebuild schools destroyed by war.

The United Nations was a symbol that even in our darkest hour, we could build a better future.

It showed me the value of global solidarity and the power of collective action.

These are not abstract principles to me. I owe my life to them. I try to embody them in all my work.

Today we are in the midst of another difficult period for the Korean Peninsula.

The Cheonan incident is a stark reminder of the urgency of securing durable peace and stability in the region. I am confident that the international community and the Security Council will heed the call for united stand for the sake of peace.

I will do my utmost to resolve problems peacefully, through dialogue and negotiation.

That is the UN approach. That is my role as Secretary-General.

That is also a firm principle to which both Korean leaders have agreed and which the parties to the Six-Party talks have agreed.

With concerted effort by all of us, we can and must achieve a non-nuclear, peaceful, democratic and prosperous Korean Peninsula.

As Secretary-General, I pledge to do my best to achieve that goal with passionate impartiality, not passive neutrality.

Thank you again for allowing me to share this wonderful evening with you.

My heartfelt congratulations to both General Paik Sun Yup and Secretary Powell, and my very best wishes to the entire Korea Society.

Thank you.