The Korea Herald


Ban Ki-moon speaks to nation after return

By (공용)코리아헤럴드

Published : Jan. 12, 2017 - 20:55

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Former UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon speaks at a press conference after returning home through Incheon International Airport on Thursday. (Lee Sang-sub/The Korea Herald) Former UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon speaks at a press conference after returning home through Incheon International Airport on Thursday. (Lee Sang-sub/The Korea Herald)

The following is former UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon's full-text speech at the Incheon International Airport Thursday upon returning home from New York -- Ed.

Thank you very much. It’s cold, and late, so thank you so much for the warm welcome. My fellow Koreans, I have completed 10 years serving as the secretary-general of the United Nations and have returned to my home country, which I have longed for so dearly. Thank you.

As the UN secretary-general, I have worked for the past 10 years for peace for mankind, for the human rights of the weak, for the development of poor nations, for the prevention of climate change and for gender equality.

The last 10 years has taught me so much. Through the tragedy of warfare, I felt the importance of our security, and how important that security is in the lives of Koreans.

I learned why successful nations are successful, and why failed nations fail.

I witnessed firsthand how the failure of a leader can lead people to ruin.

The international affairs revolving around this nation will have an enormous influence on our security, economy and commerce. We must clarify our relationships with North Korea, the US, Japan, Russia and China, and set up strategies for each.

My fellow Koreans, they say that 10 years can change even rivers and mountains. After 10 years, I have returned to my home country, the Republic of Korea, and my heart is heavy. I realize that there exists an equally palpable shadow overhanging this country’s great achievements and its place in the international community.

The country is torn apart. The economy has lost its vitality, and the society has been tainted by injustice. The youth have lost their dreams. Everything is in shambles.

What good is development if the lives of Koreans do not improve?

We must end the polarization of income, the divide between ideologies, between regions, between generations. We must bring all of Korea together. We can no longer have a class of the powerful. All of Korea’s leaders are responsible. They must all take responsibility, and adopt a spirit of consideration and sacrifice.

I will work hard to give our youth hope and confidence to become true leaders of tomorrow. I will use my experience and insight that I gained as the UN secretary-general to be a guide for our young people’s future.

If we work together, we can overcome these hardships. The Korean people are wired to overcome national challenges with wisdom, with courage, and with united strength.

I have thought long and hard about how I would use the insight I gained as the UN secretary-general for my country. Many people have asked me if I have that determination to seek power. If by seeking power, they mean that I am seeking to tie our unified country together and make it the best country in the world, I have already said that I am ready to sacrifice myself for that cause.

But if by seeking power they mean that I am seeking to cut down others and conquer, I do not seek power.

I am only seeking to give my all for my people, for my country.

Thank you. The attitude of certain people who pursued only their partisan interests has left deep scars and disappointment in the UN and in my own heart. I refuse to accept their disparagement of my sincerity in wanting to devote myself in these hard times, and of the ideals of the United Nations.

My fellow Koreans, for the past 10 years I have been traveling the world, experiencing and watching. I have seen those agonizing under oppression and have become their voice. I have become the voice of the voiceless. Everywhere I went, I have always demanded that leaders do what they must do. The Korean political leaders must also find a solution to heal the social divides of our nations.

This is unconditional. We are all Koreans. Allowing our country and society to divide further will spell disaster for our people. We have no more time to waste.

We do not need a change in administration, we need a change in politics.

To my despair, politicians only seek their own interests. It is something to be condemned.

My fellow Koreans, there have been so many rumors reported in the press around the time of my arrival. None of them have anything to do with the truth.

They only distort my sincere wish to use my experience to participate in politics.

For the past 50 years, I have been a public servant in Korea and the UN, working for my country, my people, and for humanity. I have never done anything that goes against my conscience.

I have often said that I will hear various voices from all over the country. I will begin to do so tomorrow. And with a humble heart, I will make a decision that has nothing to do with my private interests. The decision will not take long.

My fellow Koreans, history will remember 2016. It will remember the miracle of the people in Seoul’s plazas, their efforts to make a better country. We must never forget those in the plaza. In this new year, our hearts are turned toward hope.

Let us all work together for a truly great country and a truly great people.

As I’ve said, the Korean people have gone through countless crises, and each time we have witnessed the power of our people. I trust in the people’s love for our country.

I am not cynical about the future. There are differences of opinions and arguments, but if we stop these political fights and stand determined, we will stand again just as the sun rises from the darkness. My fellow Koreans, do not lose heart. If we stand together, nothing is impossible. Thank you.

I will devote myself to the development of our people. Thank you.