H.E. Mr. Lee Taeho
Vice Minister of Foreign Affairs
on the occasion of the 73rd UN Day Commemorative Luncheon
hosted by the UN Association of the Republic of Korea
Seoul, October 24, 2018
Ambassador Lee Ho-jin,
Acting President of the UN Association of the Republic of Korea,
President Park Kyung-seo of Korean Red Cross
Former Minister of Foreign Affairs Gong Ro-myung,
Chairman of the East Asia Foundation,
Former Executive Secretary Kim Hak-su of the UN ESCAP
Ambassador Mohamed Al-harthy of the Sultanate of Oman,
Dean of the Diplomatic Corps in Korea,
Distinguished Members of the Diplomatic Corps in Korea,
Ladies and Gentlemen,
Today, the United Nations system is confronted
with a multitude of challenges greater than ever before.
The United Nations was established
to save succeeding generations from the scourge of war.
Today, it has become a truly universal international organization,
comprising 193 member states,
promoting international peace and security,
and responding to new global challenges.
However, despite international efforts under the United Nations,
protracted civil wars and armed conflicts
continue to plague various parts of the world.
Every day, innocent people suffer and die
as a result of such wars and acts of terrorism.
Indeed, the international community is now facing
the most severe refugee crisis since the Second World War.
And in the face of this myriad of challenges
there are those who are feeling a sense of skepticism.
Many people ask if the United Nations
is still capable of coming up with effective solutions.
Failure to effectively respond to crises such as in Syria and Yemen
has led to increased criticism toward the United Nations,
undermining faith in multilateralism in general.
The challenges facing the United Nations
are further compounded
by the rise of protectionism and nationalism in different corners of the world.
But I must say,
It is in times like today that we must step beyond national borders
and pool our wisdom to find common solutions.
It is in times like today that confidence in multilateralism
must be reinvigorated.
It is in times like today that our priority
should be to build a United Nations
which is even more effective, even stronger.
When faced with pressing challenges,
the thing to do is go back to basics.
I believe as the United Nations goes back to basics,
confidence in multilateralism will be restored.
The United Nations should focus on its goals
as enshrined in its Charter.
It should promote peace and security.
It should enhance human rights.
And it should encourage development.
This September, UN General Assembly General Debate was held
under the theme ‘Making the UN relevant to all people.’
It was a valuable opportunity for us to give fresh thought
to how the United Nations can be relevant to us, to our lives.
The international community recognized
the rapid increase in trans-national issues
and the need to overcome differences and conflicting ideologies.
It highlighted the importance of dialogue, cooperation
and the creation of international norms
to deal with these challenges.
In this regard, I would like to extend my deep appreciation
to the United Nations Association of the Republic of Korea
for organizing this wonderful event –
it provides an invaluable opportunity
to reflect on how to overcome these challenges.
It is a great honor for me to be part of this
73rd UN Day Commemorative Luncheon.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
Throughout the past 27 years
since joining the United Nations in 1991,
the Republic of Korea has been promoting
the principles and values of the United Nations in all issue areas -
peace and security, human rights, and development.
And we will continue in our utmost efforts
to rebuild confidence in multilateralism.
In fact, attending the UN General Assembly for two consecutive years,
President Moon Jae-in has emphasized
the Republic of Korea’s determination
to contribute to making the United Nations relevant to all people.
Given the limited time available
I would like to share with you just a few examples
of Korea’s efforts to this end in the three pillars.
First, human rights.
The Korean Government holds the belief
that it is only on a solid foundation of human rights
that an open and inclusive society can truly be built.
Recognizing this, we are fully participating
in the international endeavors
for the protection and promotion of the rights of women,
and leading the discussions on gender equality
and women’s empowerment in the United Nations.
In addition, we are committed to playing an active role
in the international discussions on ‘Women, Peace and Security’.
We believe that the launch of our
‘Action with Women and Peace’ initiative will indeed
contribute to concerted efforts
to put an end to sexual violence in conflict.
Second, with regard to development cooperation,
the 3 P’s – namely, people, prosperity and peace –
represent the core values
of Korea’s development cooperation policy.
We are supporting the sustainable development of developing countries
with a focus on promoting gender equality, creating quality jobs,
and strengthening peace and fairness.
We are continuously increasing funds for these purposes.
Our assistance to refugees, for example,
has increased fivefold during the last five years,
and this year we started to send 50,000 tons of rice
to countries undergoing severe food crises.
Thirdly, I would like to take an overview of Korea’s contribution
to building peace and security,
which is indeed the fundamental purpose of the United Nations.
With our own direct experience
of war and division on the Korean Peninsula,
we are fully aware of the value of peace.
The Republic of Korea is more than ready
to continue its strong and steady contribution
to international peace and security.
This very moment, more than 650 Korean Peacekeepers
are participating in UN Operations in South Sudan and Lebanon.
We are working to further contribute to activities
in related areas such as training and technology.
Korea is also actively engaging in the “sustaining peace” agenda
as a member of the UN Peacebuilding Commission.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
The topic of peace and security brings me to an issue very close to us:
the situation on the Korean Peninsula.
Once clouded with uncertainty,
the Korean Peninsula has seen remarkable developments
beginning from this year.
We have witnessed unprecedented strides
towards peace and prosperity in this land,
answering the aspirations of the Korean people
and backed up by the support and encouragement
of the international community.
The United Nations has rendered invaluable support
since the very beginning of these developments.
Last November, the UN General Assembly adopted
the Olympic Truce resolution
for the PyeongChang Winter Olympic Games,
in support of our resolve
to make PyeongChang an occasion to promote peace.
Starting with the PyeongChang Olympics in February,
the year 2018 has seen a continuation of dialogue for peace.
Three Inter-Korean Summits have been held,
leading to the Panmunjeom and Pyeongyang Declarations.
Throughout this process,
the United Nations has been a reliable partner
and a strong supporter.
The international community welcomed the improvements
in the inter-Korean relations
and encouraged dialogue for the denuclearization
of the Korean Peninsula.
In his address to the General Assembly,
President Moon Jae-in asked for the support and cooperation
of the international community
as the Republic of Korea works to realize permanent peace
on the Korean Peninsula
and to pave the way for a future of shared prosperity
in Northeast Asia.
Secretary-General Antonio Guterres
has repeatedly expressed his wholehearted support
for our efforts to this end,
and assured us of the United Nations’ readiness
to render all possible assistance within its capacity.
Highly appreciating the role of the United Nations
in promoting peace on the Korean Peninsula,
the Korean Government sincerely hopes
that the United Nations will continue to be with us
on the path to establishing permanent peace.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
The Republic of Korea will continue to work
toward strengthening its contribution to the United Nations,
promoting the values of the United Nations in Korea,
on the Korean Peninsula, as well as in Northeast Asia.
The UN Association of Korea is playing an excellent bridging role
between the United Nations and the Korean people.
I would like to take this opportunity to express my appreciation
to the UN Association of Korea
for its tireless efforts to share and promote
the values of the United Nations in Korea.
Once again, I offer my warmest congratulations
to the UN Association
and all the distinguished guests on the 73rd UN Day.