Dr. Hak Ja Han Moon,

Dr. Hong, Chairman of the Sunhak Peace Prize Committee,


Ladies and gentlemen,

And of course, our recipient of the award this morning whose achievements we are celebrating, His Excellency, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon,

Let me begin by expressing how deeply honored and grateful that I am to be given this opportunity to make a few remarks. I don’t want to go through the process of expounding all of the achievements of former UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon. They are already here in this book in front of you. But I can tell you there are many, many, many more which are not listed here. I can tell you that from my own experience in interacting with Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon over the years when he was Secretary-General and when I was in office.

I remember the times when I was talking about climate change and I was always trying to pester Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon to hear me because I felt nobody else was listening to me. And I remember the time, Mr. Secretary-General, when you invited me to join 26 leaders mostly from the developed world at the dinner before the meeting in Copenhagen.

And I think Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon did that very deliberately because I had been saying a lot of things about climate change and he wanted to see what I would do in the midst of the President of the United States, President of China, and all of these big people from big countries. And I recall Mr. Ban Ki-moon looking at me while all of the discussion was going on and inviting me to comment. Eventually, I built up the courage to say a few words and I scribbled a note, “Can I make a few remarks?” And I did.

Ever since that time, I think Mr. Ban Ki-moon listened to the voice, the message coming from the small countries, the people who really attend the United Nations without really being seen, without being heard.

And I say this with a great deal of emotion because Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon really was the first one to listen to what I was saying, even to the point of being convinced to visit my country in 2011. And I remember that very, very distinctly.

I remember Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon going on a tour to visit all the places that are flooded very frequently, to visit the people who suffer every time there is flooding, a bit of a storm.

And I remember Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon coming back in the evening as we met before the reception, and I asked him, “So what have you seen?” And I can never forget what he said. He said, “Mr. President, I have been listening to you year after year at the United Nations General Assembly. And I must admit that I never truly understood. But now, not only do I understand, but I feel and I promise you, I will do everything in my power to do as much as I can.”

And ladies and gentlemen, he has done it. He has delivered on his promise. He has put emphasis on what I have always regarded as the greatest challenge to humanity. He has succeeded in putting climate change at the top of the UN agenda.

Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon did not elaborate on all of the good things that he did. He did not make reference to the establishment of the Green Climate Fund, which is also a product of his time as Secretary-General. Here in Korea, we have the Global Green Growth Institute. We in the Pacific region are small islands, dots in the middle of the Pacific Ocean. What do we have? Islands. Small islands. But huge ocean states. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon recognized not only the relevance but the critical importance of oceans not only to the changing climate but to humanity with the result that now the ocean is an integral part, a key part and critical part of the international agenda.

In all of these interactions that I’ve had with Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, there are two things that I observe. Unlike many people, he’s comfortable to interact with leaders from the biggest countries and also very sympathetic to interact with the leaders from small countries.

Not only that, but as we have seen from what he has done, the sustainable development agenda, the focus on women’s issues, and now climate change, my perception of Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon is that he is one of the greatest humanitarians that I know, perhaps in the world. He cared about the small people. He was willing to step forward and take the burden of the small people.

Ladies and gentlemen,

Many people have asked me, “Where is your prepared speech?” And I said, “No, I don’t want to read a prepared speech. I want to speak from my heart.”

As the Secretary-General also said, he is a man with courage to step forward and do things that many would shy away from doing. The engagement of civil society, the engagement of the private sector, the engagement of people outside of the government in the international discussion is something that Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon brought in during his term in office. To tackle climate change, this was absolutely vital.

So, ladies and gentlemen,

I am very, very proud to take this opportunity to offer my congratulations, the congratulations of, I am sure, all of us here but also the congratulations of our people, the vulnerable people, the people that have benefitted and will benefit from the work of Secretary General Ban Ki-moon.

He unreservedly deserves the honor that he has been bestowed.

Congratulations, once again, and may you live forever.

Thank you.