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On North Korea, the UN, and South Korea’s Era of Global Happiness

Essays and Interviews
Joon Oh

"Brown Journal of World Affairs: Last December, you spoke at the UN Security Council’s first ever meeting on human rights violations in North Korea. In a moving speech, you talked about families that were separated during the war and now live on opposite sides of the 38th parallel. Some surveys have shown that there is a lack of political will among younger generations in South Korea to pursue reunification. What do you think about that?

Ambassador Joon Oh: I don’t think there is a lack of political will among younger generations. I think it’s only that, compared to my generation, the older generation, young people in South Korea do not know much about North Korea. Which is understandable, in my opinion, because most of them, even their parents, were born after the Korean War, not to mention the division of Korea in 1945. 


Ambassador Joon Oh is a career diplomat who has served the Republic of Korea (ROK) in various posts since joining the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in 1978. He was appointed as Ambassador and Permanent Representative of Korea to the United Nations in New York on 20 September 2013. He is currently President of the Eco- nomic and Social Council (ECOSOC) and President-Elect of the Conference of States Parties to the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD) for the 2015–2016 term. He also served as President of the Security Council for May 2014 during the 2013–2014 term. The ROK government awarded him an Order of Service Merit twice, the Order of Green Stripes in 1996 and the Order of Yellow Stripes in 2006. On 13 March 2015, Ambassador Oh delivered a keynote speech at Harvard Law School for the National Unification Advisory Council (NUAC), Boston Chapter’s seminar series on North Korean human rights.