Yoon’s Special Envoy to the World Economic Forum in Davos talks about early foreign policy YoonNews
The annual World Economic Forum, delayed from its normal winter date by Covid, has just concluded its week-long convention.
Last week the high-level conference, which draws leaders from government, business and nonprofits, returned for the first time since the coronavirus shut down the world, but amid a war in Europe.
For South Korea’s newly elected President Yoon Suk-yeol, it was the first multilateral diplomatic step where he could outline the new administration’s foreign policy direction.
For this, he sent a special delegation led by Na Kyung-won, a former four-term lawmaker and leader of the ruling People Power Party.
We have President Yoon’s special envoy to Davos, Na Kyung-won, in the studio with us.
Na Kyung-won, welcome to the show.
You led President Yoon Suk-yeol’s special delegation to the annual World Economic Forum.
This was the new administration’s first step in its multilateral diplomacy.
What message did President Yoon want you to convey, having chosen you for this role?
First of all, the Yoon administration is just getting started.
It had been exactly two weeks since he started his term when he gave me this role, so he asked me to spread the word about the main policies of the new administration.
Indeed, the biggest change with the new administration is the country’s diplomatic focus.
The new administration’s diplomacy, unlike the previous administration, focuses heavily on values-based diplomacy and South Korea’s role in the international community.
The President has asked me to emphasize these two things during the Forum.
You say that the biggest change from the previous administration is in the area of diplomacy.
How did you define the diplomacy of the new Yoon administration and what did world leaders think of it?
As you know, multilateralism in the world is in danger.
Multilateralism is on the decline, as smaller groups form their own economic blocs.
Additionally, with the war in Ukraine and the COVID-19 pandemic, countries have focused on establishing supply chains with countries that share the same values.
In this regard, President Yoon’s diplomatic policy aligns with the world order as well as the international trade order, so many countries present at the Forum welcomed the Yoon administration.
In particular, when I spoke with EU President Ursula von der Leyen, she was enthusiastic about the new diplomatic approach, putting values above profits and efficiency.
Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, this was the first in-person Davos Forum for two years.
It usually takes place in January, but this time it took place at the end of May.
What is your assessment of the Forum this year? What were the most important topics covered?
Okay, because of the pandemic, that hadn’t happened for a long time.
The world order has changed rapidly, so discussions covered many topics ranging from global supply chains and climate change to pandemic-related issues.
With regard to global supply chains, there has been discussion about whether to expand multilateralism on this front.
As I said before about multilateralism, I don’t think multilateralism is degrading, but rather moving towards a multilateralism based on enhanced values.
Another topic that requires our attention is, of course, climate change.
World leaders were very concerned about climate change and how the international community can move towards carbon neutrality and promote green technologies together.
These were some of the main concerns.
On climate change, you also had a one-on-one with US Presidential Special Envoy for Climate, John Kerry.
You mentioned South Korea’s membership in the First Movers Coalition, or FMC.
How would this be received by Korean industries and businesses?
In fact, the First Movers Coalition can be seen as an effort to expand the green technology pie and the green market pie.
First, to achieve carbon neutrality, we need green technologies, but since the use of green technologies comes with costs, it is not that simple.
In other words, we need to buy more things based on green technology to engage businesses.
Even if it brings more cost, we can expand the market to speed up technology development
Governments emphasize this; eight of them are taking part, as well as about fifty companies.
I think this is something we need to embrace quickly as it will help us further develop our environmentally friendly industries.
In addition, by being on site during the set-up, we can participate in the development of the rules so that the final stage is favorable to our country and our companies.
So, I believe in CME membership.
Even President Yoon has declared green technologies to be global public goods.
If green technology develops, there will be questions about how it should be shared, and as South Korea transitions from a receiving country to a donor country, we can act as a bridge between those donor countries and the beneficiary countries.
For these three reasons, I strongly believe that we must participate proactively in the CMF.
So you think South Korea should board while the rules are being worked out.
During this trip, you also met the Ukrainian Minister of Economy, Yulia Svyrydenko, where she asked for help from South Korea in the form of electric vehicles?
To what extent do you think South Korea will contribute to Ukraine’s post-war recovery?
I believe that a support committee for Ukraine’s recovery will be created.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has already revealed at the Forum that this will be the case after June, but I think that South Korea should actively participate in the reconstruction of Ukraine.
In fact, I must say that I was very impressed with the Ukrainian Minister of Economy, a woman in her forties.
I was quite surprised that she didn’t ask for monetary, military or defense support, but she said, “We are ready to rebuild a new Ukraine from the rubble of war. And this new Ukraine will be green. and it will be smart.”
It then occurred to me that not only does Ukraine have a remarkable leader like President Zelenskyy, but the country is lucky to have other leaders with such a great vision for the future.
And, in the fact that she asked for electric cars, noting that cars with combustion engines will have to be replaced one day, I realized the potential of Ukraine.
Anyway, supporting the reconstruction of Ukraine can be seen as humanitarian support, but it can also be an opportunity for Korean companies.
Therefore, I believe it is right for us to be proactive in doing what we can for Ukraine.
During your visit to the Forum, you also met the President of the BlackRock Investment Institute, Thomas Donilon. He was the President’s national security adviser during the Obama administration. BlackRock is committed to focusing more than 50% of its future investments in sustainable businesses and, in this regard, it would expand its investments in South Korea.
What does it refer to in Korea in terms of sustainability?
I told President Donilon that now was the right time to actively invest in South Korea.
As you know, BlackRock tries to be the world leader in terms of ESG and corporate sustainability.
The company has focused on ESG. RE100 is also related to this.
This is what sustainable means in practical terms.
The industries of the future, of course, are inseparable from carbon neutrality.
And in our discussion, he said he would go beyond scope 1 and 2, and now focus on scope 3 emissions.
According to this metric, respectively, Scopes 1 and 2 are emissions caused directly and indirectly.
For example, scope 1 is when a company’s plant emits carbon dioxide, while scope 2 is when companies source energy in a way that causes carbon dioxide emissions.
Scope 3 is centered on our daily lives. There are emissions when people eat or use transport, for example, and he believes in reducing emissions here too.
In other words, emissions are part of our daily lives and he sees a need to reduce them.
Investments are also increasing in this aspect of carbon neutrality.
Given all of this, I believe in joining FMC quickly not only to achieve the country’s environmental goals, but also to lead the way in green technology and green industry.
So I think there will be a lot of investment in that direction.
There is also something we cannot afford to ignore. North Korea.
With the leaders, you discussed humanitarian aid to North Korea.
You met Peter Maurer from the ICRC as well as Seth Berkely from Gavi.
What did they think of the idea that humanitarian aid in the North was separated from military or political matters?
And what is their analysis of the current situation in North Korea?
The Red Cross has a long history of providing humanitarian support to North Korea.
But even for the Red Cross, President Maurer conceded that supporting North Korea has not been easy. It was actually the second time I had met him.
Also for Gavi, they have already allocated COVID-19 vaccines to North Korea, but the North is not accepting them.
So our position is that we are ready to share our vaccines with the North at any time, and we have even talked about temporarily lifting the sanctions so that the vaccines can be transported.
But the North has not yet reacted.
Given the situation, the leaders [of the Red Cross and Gavi] both said it is probably not easy for the North to respond to these offers.
But the three of us concluded that we needed to keep working hard to support them in this.
In fact, North Korea tested missiles again at the Davos Forum this time. Do you still believe that humanitarian aid should be seen as a separate issue from military or political situations?
Despite this, I continue to believe that we should separate humanitarian aid from these political situations and continue to provide humanitarian aid such as Covid-19 vaccines and other medical supplies.
Thank you for coming and sharing your time with us at the Davos Forum.