Human Rights and Love in Deed and Truth
Kim, Chong Yang
President, International Human Rights League of Korea
Chairman, Board of Directors, Hanyang Foundation
Greetings ladies and gentlemen, and good evening. I would like to welcome you to this special symposium on human rights. I thank all of you for your attendance.
The International Human Rights League of Korea is truly honored to have this wonderful opportunity to co-host this symposium with Hanyang University, whose founding philosophy is based on the principles of diligence, honesty, humility, and philanthropy. In fact, the university’s official motto is “Love in Deed and in Truth,” indicating its lifelong commitment to action and integrity.
How apropos then, that the theme of this symposium is Human Rights and Love in Deed and Truth. The purpose of our gathering today is to explore, discuss, and seek practical solutions to some of today’s pressing issues on human rights around the world. The rights of children, war victims, refugees, and migrants, and all the crises that each of these groups are associated with, are no longer problems limited to faraway places and thus ignorable. The time to acknowledge and provide assistance is long overdue. As members of the international community, we must address these crises with a shared sense of responsibility and subsequently, engaged in collective action to truly achieve beneficial outcomes.
The magnitude of violations against our children is staggering. Human right abuses around the world are well-documented in publications authored by international organizations. In fact, statistics from the International Labor Organization (ILO) report that approximately 168 million children are currently used as child laborers. Moreover, about 120 million of these children are between the ages of 5 and 14, and around 85 million are engaged in “the worst forms of child labor” that include no pay and inhumane conditions. Also, UNICEF reported on the devastating results of conflict, affecting approximately 3.6 million children in Iraq.
We are facing an unprecedented refugee crisis, and at root to many of them is the growing threat and presence of terrorism. Acts of terror around the world is responsible for numerous fatalities and casualties, as well as the constant displacement of the world’s defenseless and vulnerable. In fact, the number of refugees worldwide soared to a record high of 204.4 million in 2015. The latest surge of displaced people is from Nigeria, where one of the world’s most devastating terrorist organizations, Boko Haram, continues to unleash deadliest attacks. Researchers estimate the total death toll of Boko Haram violence over the past seven years to be at least 20,000 people (including civilians) and this violence has forced at least 2.3 million to leave their homes. What makes the refugee crisis even more extreme is the desperate situations the victims face. Furthermore, as you are aware, perilous attempts to cross the Mediterranean Sea in overcrowded boats is a stark example of how refugees are pushed to risk their lives to simply seek asylum. Approximately 3,200 people have drowned in the Mediterranean attempting the boat journey to reach Europe. Those fortunate to survive the crossing still face new challenges such as discrimination, abuse, and even xenophobic attacks in their host states.
Emergency response to people affected by disasters, conflicts, and epidemics is especially critical in developing countries. The scope of devastation is amplified in places where poverty and the lack of resources exacerbate suffering in emergency situations. Proper medical aid is vital alongside sanitation and protection for the people affected by these catastrophic events. Doctors and health sector professionals from organizations such as Doctors Without Borders (MSF) have been risking their lives to provide emergency medical care in such places. Yet their efforts are being stretched to a breaking point as health care facilities are being attacked in places where armed conflict is an everyday occurrence. According to research documented by the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), nearly 2,400 attacks against health workers have been reported between 2012 and 2014 in 11 countries.
I have described only some of the grim realities of the present status quo of human rights violations around the world. Our invited speakers today will be addressing these issues in greater detail. We have Mr. Song, Sang-hyun, president of UNICEF Korea, is leading many projects designed to protect vulnerable children worldwide. There is also Naveed Syed Hussain, chief of UNHCR Korea is leading various operations to protect refugees. And also in attendance is Mr. Thierry Coppens, head of Doctors Without Borders (MSF) Korea who is serving patients on the frontlines of crises around the world. In addition, in his keynote speech, Professor Chung, Jin-hong will describe innovative solutions drawn from collective insights and reflections on these crises.
I believe that one of the greatest tools we have in combating the problems that plague our world is hope. Despite great technological progress, many advanced societies have grown complacent in many ways. The word ‘love’ has been and is coming to be overused and undervalued to the extent that it has become clichéd. Its meaning has been diluted as it is often used to describe something superficially. I would like to encourage the use of the true meaning of “love” and its inherent power to transform and heal.
I firmly believe in the power of love and the miracles it can perform. For their genuine practice of love, I would like to commend UNICEF, UNHCR, MSF, Childfund, World Vision, Good Neighbors, and countless other humanitarian organizations for their brave and selfless commitment to serving the world. They have help to achieve significant progress in protecting human rights around the world, but the challenges still remain. This is why we need more cooperationon the global scale. Because taking action against human rights violations is not limited to one approach or one method, I believe we should continue to be open-minded in working with partners locally and globally to advance human rights. Our collective efforts will help us to reach a brighter future, where everyone is valued, respected, and treated fairly. together we can effectively combat injustice and poverty and reach solutions that will enable more to fully enjoy human rights and freedoms that we are all entitled to.
In closing, I would like to extend my sincere gratitude to Prof. Chung and each organization’s representatives who are speaking today. I would also like to express my thankfulness to everyone here taking time to participate and in turn, serving as symbols of hope for others.