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10/25/2017 News Briefing > Media Briefing

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[Chosun Ilbo] “Young People, Jump into The Right Thing, Now!”

Mary Robinson, the former President of Ireland, Hanyang University ‘Paiknam Prize’

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(full text) She grabbed my hand and shook it. Her charisma was evident through her voice and decisive tone. Mary Robinson (73, photo), the former President of Ireland from 1990 to 1997, visited Korea on the 16th of last month for the Paiknam Prize.

The Paiknam Prize was established in order to honor the spirit of Dr. Paiknam Kim Lyun-joon(1914~2008), the founder of Hanyang University. Before the award ceremony, Mary Robinson said, “Korea has a lot of similarities with Ireland, which makes me feel familiar.” She also added, “Korea is a very dynamic country.” In 2005, she had a lecture denouncing North Korea’s human rights situation in Dorasan station in Paju.

She is respected as a transformative figure and was a former human rights lawyer who became the first female President in the predominantly conservative Catholic state of Ireland. She was initially a president who played a symbolic role in the parliamentary cabinet system, but by revitalizing and liberalizing the country, she became an incredibly popular president with a 93% approval rating by the time she retired from her presidency. She left two months ahead of the official retirement date and moved to the United Nations as the High Commissioner for Human Rights.

“People were in shock, but I really wanted to do this work.” She earned even greater respect after retirement as a UN Envoy and the president of a human rights organization, which helps minorities and marginalized groups of people. In 2007, Mary Robinson along with the former South African President Nelson Mandela, former US President Jimmy Carter, and former UN Secretary General Kofi Annan formed the Elders, in order to seek solutions to international issues. Another former UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon will be joining the Elders as well. She visited North Korea with several people including former President Carter in 2011. She remembered, “it was a very sad country without an independent voice.”

She is currently Chancellor of the University of Dublin and chairman of the Institute for Human Rights and Business. She has set up a foundation and contributed herself to women’s rights and climate change. She said, “Women should be educated at the same level as men, able to exert their full potential, and reach the highest position. Balancing women with men creates the most beneficial outcomes for all societies.” 

Robinson said that she was concerned about climate change when she visited Africa during a human rights campaign. She said, “I am worried about the future of our 6 grandchildren. Even though US President Donald Trump decided to withdraw the US from the Paris Climate Agreement, the opposition has become more intense. Climate change is a complex entanglement of inequalities such as the gap between the rich and poor in addition to gender discrimination. We have to change the direction of our approach to impact the center of nature and science.”

Robinson said, “When I was at Harvard Law School in the 1960’s, I was influenced by the atmosphere of young Americans who wanted to find out what they could do for their society.” Speaking to the young generation, Robinson said, “do not procrastinate but take on social responsibilities which you can afford to do now.”
 
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