4 February - Irina Bokova meeting with President Park Geun-hye affirmed that the Republic of Korea would deepen its involvement with UNESCO in the areas of education and culture.
“Among UN agencies, UNESCO is one very dear to the Korean people, because you provided assistance as Korea was emerging from the devastation of war, through support to education and culture,” said President Park, who received the Director-General in Seoul’s presidential palace. “Now, we are very interested in sharing our development experience with other countries and repaying that which we have received.”
The Director-General commended President Park’s leadership and vision, referring to her speech last month at the World Economic Forum, where she called for a “Davos Consensus” to effect a paradigm shift putting creativity at the heart of development.
“This resonates deeply with what UNESCO is doing – to foster human ingenuity and creativity,” said Ms Bokova. “The Republic of Korea is a fascinating example of the importance of soft power for becoming the world leader that you are today. Education, science, culture, the ingenuity of the human mind -- this is what we need today for peace.”
The President highlighted the importance of the World Education Forum and the World Water Forum in 2015, both hosted by the Republic of Korea. “The World Education Forum is not just another education conference -- it will set the agenda on the future of education for the next generation, and with your country we are developing new thinking about education for global citizenship.”
Peace and soft power were also the main themes of Mrs Bokova’s meeting with the Minister of Foreign Affairs Mr Yun Byung-se. He indicated that “cultural enrichment” is one of the country’s four key goals, and expressed the Republic of Korea’s readiness to work with UNESCO on promoting culture for sustainable development. “Soft power is one of the important tools to change the world -- it is important for reconciliation and it is at the heart of UNESCO’s work.”
The Director-General commended the President and the Minister for Korea’s aim to increase official development assistance, with a special focus on gender equality. During a lunchtime meeting, the Chairman of the Foreign Affairs and Unification Committee, Mr Ahn Hong Joon, explained that he had requested the Minister of Foreign Affairs to assess official development assistance in terms of its impact on gender equality. The Speaker of the National Assembly, Mr Kang Chang Hee reiterated the role that education played in Korea’s rise to a global economy and pledged that the National Commission would continue working with UNESCO to play a proactive role in promoting peace. Addressing parliamentarians, including from the Education, Culture, Sports and Tourism Committee chaired by Mr Hak-yong Shin, Ms Bokova affirmed that “UNESCO and the Republic of Korea share the same values, we work towards the same agenda, and Korea knows the value of peace that is enshrined in our Constitution.”
The President of the Korea International Cooperation Agency (KOICA), Mr Kim Young-mok and the Director-General discussed several opportunities to expand cooperation in science, culture and education, in Asia and sub-Saharan Africa. During her visit, Ms Bokova explored opportunities for new or reinforced partnerships, including with top executives at Samsung (on education, skills, mobile learning and cultural heritage), the country’s largest internet portal company Naver (on cultural heritage) and CJ, where she was introduced to a glimpse of Korea’s youth culture and entertainment performances. She met with the President and CEO of the Korean Broadcasting Corporation, Mr Gil Hwo Young, also heading the Asian Broadcasting Union, who expressed particular interest in gender and media, as well and media development more broadly.