The chief of UNICEF Korea believes the nation should increase its donations as a responsible member of the global community.
“It is natural of Korea, as a developed nation, to give back to the international community,” Suh Dae-won, executive director of the Korean Committee for UNICEF (KCU), told The Korea Times during an interview Wednesday. “In fact, we need to become a moral leader in the international community through more aid and donations.” Suh, 66, a former diplomat, was recently appointed to the post.
He is a veteran diplomat who had worked with the United Nations for 12 of his 30 years in the foreign ministry. He served as director-general of the ministry’s U.N. Bureau, and as ambassador to the U.N. in the 1990s. Also, he led the Korean Mission to New York in 1991 when Korea successfully joined the U.N. Suh expressed confidence in working with the U.N. as it is in his area of expertise. “I’m ready to effectively coordinate and manage relations with the UNICEF headquarters in New York,” he said. UNICEF is an acronym for the United Nations Children’s Rights and Emergency Relief Fund established in 1946 to meet the emergency needs of children affected by World War II. It has expanded its operations for the sake of children’s rights around the globe through fundraising and campaigns. Korea used to be a recipient of UNICEF aid. But today, the nation is the fourth-largest donor to the U.N. organization, among the 34 donor nations.
Suh attended the KCU’s launching ceremony in 1994 in his capacity as deputy director-general for the international organization bureau at the foreign ministry. “It was a momentous event in Korean history since it redefined Korea’s place in the world,” Suh said. As of 1994, Korea became an official donor to the organization. In the first year of its operation, the KCU raised 4 billion won ($3.7 million), but the amount swelled to 120 billion won ($111 million), a 30-fold jump, in 20 years. “UNICEF Korea is the most successful case in the U.N.,” Suh said. The KCU head also said that the bureau is taking initiative in helping children especially in developing countries in Asia.
He noted a campaign, called “School for Asia,” aims to provide education to children who are deprived of educational opportunities due to poverty or racial discrimination. The campaign, starting from donation of 10 billion won by an 84-year-old Korean citizen, has now expanded to 11 Asian countries including Nepal, Laos, Vietnam and East Timor. Despite the KCU’s notable achievement, Suh cited the need for it to do more to raise the nation’s philanthropic potential.
Korea provides only 0.15 percent of its GDP in international aid, still well below the United Nations target of 0.7 percent, he said. “It’s an international consensus we should reach,” Suh said. “Also, it will be a way to show our moral leadership, which I believe we should seek to become a true developed nation.”