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Opening Remarks at the Reception

In Commemoration of the 72nd United Nations Day

 

Ambassador Ho-Jin Lee

October 24, 2017

 

 

Good afternoon and warm welcome.

 

Honorable former Prime Minister Lee Hong-Gu, Honorable  Ambassador Park Soo-Gil, President of the World Federation of UN Associations, Honorable Ambassador Park Kyong-Suh, President of the Korea National Red Cross, Excellency Ambassadors from the Diplomatic Corps in Seoul, Honorable former Minister Lee Yon-Sook, Honorable former Minister Yoo Young-Sook, Honorable Vice Foreign Minister Cho Hyun, distinguished Representatives of NGO communities, ladies and gentlemen,

 

First of all, I wish to express my profound gratitude for your joining at this annual luncheon to commemorate the anniversary of the United Nations. Today is the 72nd United Nations Day. It seems routine – business as usual – to celebrate the UN Day annually on October 24. And yet, the observance of the day can be an opportunity for all of us to ponder upon what the UN is meant to do in the turbulent world we are living in.

 

The UN is perhaps one of the best institutions created by mankind to advance peace, development and human rights – three most crucial areas of concern for the world community. Since its founding, the UN has carried out a lot of successful tasks on the three pillars of its noble mission. Born "to save succeeding generations from the scourge of war" as its Charter declared, the UN has unremittingly met and responded to the challenges confronting humanity over the past 70 years.

 

Even amid the East-West confrontation during the Cold War period, the UN had played the fundamental roles of helping many new-born or fledgling States to establish democratic government. The Republic of Korea was obviously one of the most benefited countries.

 

Having expanded its relevance to fulfill its mission in the 21st century, the UN has completed the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) with their successful outcomes achieved within the target period and now embarked on a new set of programs with the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). As such, the roles and contributions by the UN for advancing the world peace and prosperity have been expected to grow over time.

 

Unfortunately, however, the world today is witnessing the retreat of globalization which may diminish the important roles the UN has to play. And perhaps being one side of the same coin, the rising nationalism in the US, a few of European and Asian countries as well is troublesome to adversely affect the UN in the same context. This misguided international trend is worrisome, as the number of transnational issues is ever-increasing but no country alone can resolve them.

 

Also worrisome is another phenomenon that the fatigue or skepticism about the UN is on the rise. In the view of some nationalistic political leaders, a number of member States are used to flout the UN’s fundamental principles, while abusing the UN. In their view, some Specialized Agencies of the UN System are recklessly exploited or politicized perhaps as a propaganda arena.

 

A case in point is the UNESCO which has been often denounced for its egregious actions. A couple of months ago, a deeply biased resolution was adopted in only marginal success by some members’ political maneuvering. And reportedly, it has prompted the United States to announce its intention to withdraw from this organization.

 

Last month at the general debate opening the plenary of General Assembly, many world leaders showed its enthusiasm towards peace and development, wishing the successful implementation of the SDGs.

 

Whereas many positive ideas and words were exchanged, the eyes of the world were centered around the US President Trump’s speech. Despite of his relatively negative views on the UN, I would say, the critical points he made deserve our attention so that the UN could be more relevant and responsible.

 

In this regard, I would have to mention North Korea that has continued to developed nuclear weapons and other WMDs, threatening the peace and security of the world. Blatantly violating the non-proliferation regimes and resolutions passed by the Security Council, North Korea has indeed scorned the UN. Such North Korea’s behavior has ever raised the question about its peace-loving qualification required for the UN membership. Perhaps, time’s up to consider for action in accordance with Articles 5 or 6 of the UN Charter.

 

I would suggest that on top of his reform plan, the Secretary-General Antonio Guterres may add a sort of disciplinary agenda to enforce the UN members’ adherence to the norms for world peace and prosperity.

 

Ladies and Gentlemen, Frankly, the jubilation today comes juxtaposed with the solemn sense of mission in the minds of Korean, perhaps all Korean, as the 72nd anniversary of the UN comes with the 72nd year of divided Korea. On the way towards the ultimate unification of two Koreas, one of the crucial task is for us to protect the innocent people in the North from the brutal rule of Kim Jong-un who apparently holds all North Korean hostage to keep his totalitarian regime. The UN must be the right venue to address the human rights problems in North Korea.

 

Resonating is what the UN General Assembly President Lajčák said in his opening remarks of the 73rd GA Session. He said that the theme of the year to come will be ‘Focusing on people: striving for peace and a decent life for all on a sustainable planet’. His message comes deeply to the people in North Korea – same Korean but living under the horrendous dictator Kim Jung-un.

 

Today we have invited a guest speaker, Vice Foreign Minister Cho Hyon. As announced earlier, Foreign Minister Kang Gyong-Hwa was supposed to make a special speech, but due to her later rearranged diplomatic tour to Europe, she wanted Vice Minister Cho to be with us on her behalf. I am looking forward to hearing him talk about the Moon Jae-In Government foreign policies, especially on the Korea’s multilateral diplomacy focusing on the UN.

 

For my final words, I do hope, ladies and gentlemen, you’ll indulge in joyful conversation and meeting each other on this auspicious day. Thank you very much.    
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