16 May 2006

Secretary-General Urges Students at Seoul University to Dedicate Themselves to Addressing Country's, Century's Great Challenges

NEW YORK, 15 May (UN Headquarters) -- Following are UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan's remarks to students at Seoul National University in the Republic of Korea, 15 May:

Thank you very much, President Chung, for your kind words.

And my dear young friends, it is a real pleasure for me to be here this morning with you.  And I understand today is Teachers' Appreciation Day.  And I hope you've all appreciated your teachers.  Why don't you give them a hand to let them know you appreciate them.  It's obvious that teachers are doing very well with that applause.

As Secretary-General, I make lots of speeches, as you know, but this morning, I'm not going to make one.  I would like to hear your views, and try to answer your questions.  Really, I would want us to have a conversation.  You will have the right, or you have the right, to ask any question you want to ask.  And I may reserve the right to refuse to answer any question I do not want to answer.

But, let me just say briefly why this conversation is so important to me, and indeed to my colleagues at the United Nations.

The Republic of Korea is one of the great development success stories of our time.  Your country's transformation from a war-torn nation to a democratic, prosperous State is something that all Koreans can be immensely proud of.

But, with success comes responsibility.  The Republic of Korea, with its remarkable experience in democracy and development, can, and must, make a leading contribution to our world.  One important way it can do so, is by working with the United Nations to advance the cause of peace, development and human rights.

Increasingly, this responsibility rests with you, the educated and empowered youth of Korea.  You must dedicate yourselves to finding answers to your country's and our century's great challenges of poverty, disease and environmental degradation.  You must resolve to create not just a better world, but a better country also.

You already have the skills and the knowledge required to make tremendous contributions to society.  Today, I ask you to also make sure you have the courage and the commitment to do so.

If you take up this challenge, I assure you that you will find the United Nations a willing and able partner every step of the way.

As many of you know, the United Nations is currently in the midst of a process of reform and renewal.  We're bringing a twentieth century Organization into twenty-first century focus.  We are increasing transparency in our management, even as we strengthen and expand our field of operations worldwide.  We are building our capacity to respond to natural disasters like Asia's tsunamis and earthquakes, or Central America's hurricanes and mudslides.  And we are putting particular emphasis on confronting global challenges that range from migration and youth unemployment, to the HIV/AIDS epidemic.

As we renew our Organization and its structures, we look to concerned individuals everywhere to re-energize and reinvigorate our mission.  This will happen if you join our struggle, and we are looking to you.

As young Korean men and women, you are the bright and confident future of this great and ancient nation.  I ask you to maintain your country's clear-eyed and constructive engagement with the world.  I expect you to advance the high standard of global citizenship already set by your elders.  I count on you to sustain our shared dream of peace for the next generation -- here on the Korean Peninsula and beyond.

I say to you, as I have said to students in many other countries around the world:  "Go out and make the world better!"

I now want to hear from you, take your questions, hear your comments.  Let's make it a really exciting conversation.  The floor is open.

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