NEW YORK – Growing up as a child during the Korean War, I knew poverty first hand. I saw it around me every day; I lived it. One of my earliest memories is walking up a muddy track into the mountains to escape the fighting, my village burning behind me and wondering what would happen to my family and me.
The answer was the United Nations and other international agencies. With the help of many countries and friends, my country was able to get back on its feet and carry on after that terrible and devastating conflict. Thanks to decades of hard work and sacrifice by millions of Koreans, the Republic of Korea rose from desperate poverty to prosperity in less than a half-century.
As Secretary-General of the UN, I am still living that story. Every day, I work to help end the extreme poverty that traps nearly a billion of the world’s people.
You may imagine, then, the powerful memories that I felt when I visited the Mwandama Millennium Village in the deeply impoverished southern African country of Malawi. As in my youth, I saw once again the challenges and hardship of rural poverty. Yet I also saw, once again, the power of community spirit to overcome it – the same sense of solidarity and determination that launched Korea’s rural modernization five decades ago.