Address by Yoon Suk Yeol, President of the Republic of Korea, at the 78th session of the United Nations General Assembly

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Mr. President, Mr. Secretary General, Distinguished Delegates,

I extend my congratulations to His Excellency Dennis Francis on assuming the Presidency of the 78th session of the General Assembly. Let me also pay tribute to Secretary-General António Guterres for his dedication to global peace and prosperity.

This year marks the 70th anniversary of the Korean War armistice. After the invasion by communist totalitarian forces, the fate of the Republic of Korea hung in the balance. Thankfully, with the support of UN forces, the nation dramatically defended its freedom.

The determined decision of the first UN Secretary-General, Trygve Lie, who viewed the armed invasion against the Republic of Korea as a challenge to world peace and led the effort to convene the Security Council to adopt the resolution intervening in the war, remains deeply ingrained in the minds of the Korean people.

Over the past 70 years, Korea has risen from the ashes of war to blossom into a liberal democracy and a market economy. Now, Korea intends to responsibly contribute to the international community with the goal “to promote social progress and better standards of life in larger freedom,” as championed in the UN Charter.

The theme of the 78th session of the General Assembly is “Rebuilding Trust and Reigniting Global Solidarity.”

The war in Ukraine that has been going on for two years has deepened the division in values and ideologies within the international community. Additionally, the economic repercussions of the COVID-19 pandemic has been exacerbated by the war in Ukraine, causing a contraction in the global economy and leading to food and energy crises in many parts of the world.

In difficult times, it is the vulnerable who suffer more.

In the face of today’s multifaceted global crises of an unprecedented scale, divides among countries are widening across various areas – including security, economy, technology, health, environment and culture.

To narrow these divides and ensure harmonious coexistence among all nations, the international community must stand united, with the United Nations at its core.

Today, I wish to address the divide issue in three key areas – the development divide, climate divide and digital divide.

Many countries around the world still lack the essential infrastructure necessary for everyday living. Development is unattainable without basic infrastructure such as water and sewage systems to process and supply drinking and daily-use water, energy facilities to provide electricity, and healthcare facilities to treat the sick.

To narrow the development divide, countries with financial and technological capacities must assume responsible roles.

Korea is set to boldly increase its Official Development Assistance (ODA) volume.

Despite this year’s fiscal austerity measures, the Korean government has raised the ODA budget plan for the upcoming year by over 40 percent.

As a result, compared to the fiscal year of 2019, Korea’s ODA budget is expected to more than double by next year.

We will allocate the increased ODA funds to foster development cooperation tailored to the needs of our partner countries.

In particular, we will actively channel our ODA efforts into education and training, to help partner countries build the capacity to progress socially and economically on their own.

It is said that a year of education can increase income by approximately 10 percent. This impact is more pronounced among low-income groups and women. We must expand these benefits on a global scale.

The climate crisis is another challenge that exacerbates the economic divide between nations and impedes humanity’s sustainable development.

This past July, we experienced the hottest summer ever recorded on Earth.

On this “boiling earth”, extreme weather events such as heatwaves, torrential rains, and typhoons have now become the norm.

Climate change is causing geopolitical shifts in agriculture and fisheries, worsening the crises in countries vulnerable to food shortages.

To assist countries vulnerable to climate change in reducing their carbon emissions and accelerating their transition to clean energy, Korea will scale up its green ODA.

In particular, we will contribute an additional 300 million dollars to the Green Climate Fund (GCF).

We anticipate the international community’s active financial support for the Green Climate Fund. We also hope that the international community’s collective resolve to bridge the climate divide would lead to tangible actions.

Korea will not only harness renewable energy but also extensively employ high-efficiency carbon-free energy (CFE), such as nuclear power and hydrogen, as a realistic measure to hasten our pursuit of carbon neutrality. We also plan to share these energy sources with countries vulnerable to climate change, ensuring they too can benefit.

To this end, Korea aims to pursue an international global joint research on carbon-free energy and facilitate technological innovation and investments from the private sector.

Moreover, Korea will launch a ‘Carbon Free Alliance’, an open platform that anyone in the world can join to promote the adoption of carbon-free energy.

Next, Korea plans to play a leading role in bridging the digital divide, utilizing our strengths in information and communications technologies (ICT).

Today, with advancements in digital technology, cultures and industries are going through digital transformation.

The digital divide is a major cause of economic divide.

Therefore, bridging the digital divide will be a positive attribute in resolving the challenges faced by the Global South.

Korea will support the digital transformation of countries with limited digital penetration and utilization. This will enhance their citizens’ access to education, healthcare, and financial services.

Last September at New York University and last June at the Sorbonne in Paris, I stressed that we can advance the digital culture only when fair access to AI and digital technologies, as well as the safe use of digital technologies are ensured.

I have also proposed the establishment of an international organization under the UN to discuss and set forth rules regarding digital ethics.

If we fail to curb the spread of fake news resulting from the misuse of AI and digital technologies, our freedom will be at risk; the market economy anchored in liberal democracy will be in peril; and our very future will be under threat.

Korea plans to introduce a Digital Bill of Rights soon to put forth a desirable future of the digital order.

To support the creation of an international organization under the UN and provide concrete directions for the development of AI governance, the Korean government plans to host the ‘Global AI Forum’.

Furthermore, we plan to collaborate closely with the ‘High-Level Advisory Body on AI’ being established by the UN to provide a network for communication and collaboration among global experts.

Mr. President, Mr. Secretary General, Distinguished Delegates,

Without international peace and security, development and prosperity remain elusive.

During my visit to Kyiv last July, I saw the sorrow in the eyes of children being treated at the National Children’s Hospital. Children are our future, yet children are often times the first victims of war.

In line with our commitment to the ‘Ukraine Peace and Solidarity Initiative’, the Korean government will implement a comprehensive support program that encompasses security, humanitarian assistance, and reconstruction.

Furthermore, as I pledged at the G20 Summit just two weeks ago, Korea will actively support Ukraine’s reconstruction by providing 300 million dollars next year, and a mid- to long-term support package exceeding two billion dollars.

The nuclear and missile programs of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea pose not only a direct and existential threat to the peace of the Republic of Korea, but also is a serious challenge to peace in the Indo-Pacific region and across the globe.

It is paradoxical that a permanent member of the UN Security Council, entrusted as the ultimate guardian of world peace, would wage war by invading another sovereign nation and receive arms and ammunition from a regime that blatantly violates Security Council resolutions.

In such a situation, the call to reform the UN Security Council would receive a broad support.

And if the DPRK acquires the information and technology necessary to enhance its WMD capabilities in exchange for supporting Russia with conventional weapons, such a deal between Russia and the DPRK will be a direct provocation threatening the peace and security of not only Ukraine but also the Republic of Korea. The Republic of Korea, together with its allies and partners, will not stand idly by.

Mr. President, Mr. Secretary General, Distinguished Delegates,

While military strength may vary among countries, by uniting in unwavering solidarity and steadfastly adhering to principles, we can deter any unlawful provocation.

As a member of the UN Security Council for the 2024-2025 term, the Republic of Korea commits to playing a responsible role in promoting and building global peace, as we work closely with fellow UN member states.

Passing on to future generations an international order grounded in justice and the rule of law, along with sustainable freedom, peace and prosperity is a historic responsibility shared by all of us here today.

The Republic of Korea, together with the United Nations, shall readily take on this responsibility.

Distinguished delegates,

The Republic of Korea aspires to host the World Expo 2030 to fulfill its responsibility and contribute to the international community.

It was Busan that served as the last bastion defending the freedom of the Republic of Korea when the most of the country was invaded and conquered by the communist forces more than 70 years ago. It was also Busan that rose from the ruins of the Korean War and became the second-largest transshipment hub in the world, leading the “Miracle on the Han River”. Without Busan, Korea would not have been able to stand where it is today.

Now the Republic of Korea will play its role as a responsible member of the global community by hosting the 2030 Expo in Busan – a gateway that links the Eurasian continent and the Pacific.

Korea intends to give back to the international community by sharing its experience of economic growth and development, reciprocating the help it has received in the past.

The 1851 London Expo was an expo of the Industrial Revolution. The 1990 Paris Expo was an expo of culture. The 1962 Seattle Expo was an expo which opened the new space era. The 2000 Hannover Expo was an expo of the environment. The 2030 Busan Expo will be an expo of the solidarity.

The basis of Korea’s national and foreign policy is freedom and solidarity. Building upon these values, the 2030 Busan Expo will serve as a platform to spread freedom in the spirit of solidarity, through which the world citizens can overcome crises and challenges together

The Busan Expo will be a festival where all nations can come together to share their history, culture, goods, and visions for the future, and will significantly contribute to the freedom, peace, and prosperity of the citizens around the globe.

Thank you.

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