Envoy’s speech at UN is a smash on the Internet

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Envoy’s speech at UN is a smash on the Internet


Oh Joon

“For South Koreans, people in North Korea are not ‘anybodies.’”

These were the heartfelt words of South Korean Ambassador to the United Nations Oh Joon as he addressed the UN Security Council in New York last week on the issue of Pyongyang’s human rights situation.

It is rare for any speech made at the United Nations to go viral, but Oh’s remarks at the Security Council hit a resonant note with member states as well as the young Korean crowd.

And the ambassador’s speech at the council after it adopted the North Korean human rights issue onto its agenda for the first time on Dec. 22 has taken Facebook and SNS by storm.

“Millions of South Koreans still have our family members and relatives living in the North,” said Oh staidly, looking up at the diplomats from the 15-member Security Council. “Even though we never hear from them, even by now, the pain of separation has become a cold fact of love, just a few hundred kilometers away from where we live, we cannot read what is described in the COI [Commission of Inquiry on Human Rights in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea] report without it breaking our hearts.”

One edited clip of Oh, a career diplomat who served previously as ambassador to Singapore, garnered nearly 200,000 views on YouTube and has been shared over and over again on social media platforms. A non-edited version of the speech was also uploaded to the Korean Ministry of Foreign Affairs’ YouTube channel.

South Korea also ends its two-year term as a non-permanent member of the Security Council at the end of this year.

“When we first came to the Council two years ago, one of the first issues we tackled was the DPRK’s nuclear and missile issues,” Oh said in the speech. “Our term on the council started and ended with the North Korean issue.”

The Security Council on Dec. 22 took a groundbreaking step toward tackling the issue of Pyongyang’s human rights situation, possibly holding North Korea’s leaders, including Kim Jong-un, accountable for alleged crimes against humanity.

This followed the passing of a key resolution on the issue in the UN General Assembly earlier this month based on the recommendation of a Commission of Inquiry report on the human rights situation in North Korea in February.

Oh told the JoongAng Ilbo in a phone interview on Sunday, “I did not expect such a response at all, but am thankful.”

“This meeting was a historic one where the North Korean human rights situation was officially put on the Security Council’s agenda,” he added. “On that day, representatives from over 60 countries were present aside from the 15 members of the council, so I wanted to convey to them a message as a member nation, and it’s fortunate that many people domestically also sympathized with it.”

Many people sent the ambassador messages in response to his speech at the UN. Oh’s Facebook friends grew from 800 to 1,200 in just four days.

While in the past he only accepted friend requests from people he knew, “This time around, I was thankful to everyone for taking interest in the North Korea human rights issue and accepted everyone’s friend request.”

Many of the requests came from students, soldiers and people in their 20s and 30s.

Oh also received warm words in person from his fellow diplomats.

BY SARAH KIM, YOO JEE-HYE [sarahkim@joongang.co.kr]

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