President Moon Jae-in spoke on the phone with the Director-General of the World Health Organization, Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, for 25 minutes from 4:00 p.m. today. Their telephone conversation was arranged at the request of the WHO Director-General.
President Moon began by saying, “I am glad to talk to you on the phone today after having seen you at the extraordinary virtual G20 Leaders’ Summit on March 26.” WHO Director-General Tedros said that he was grateful to the President for accepting his proposal to speak by phone. He went on to explain that he requested today’s telephone conversation to praise the leadership the President has demonstrated in regard to the COVID-19 outbreak.
The WHO Director-General continued to say that he received a gratifying report that the number of confirmed cases in Korea had seen its sharpest drop as of yesterday, which seems to be a sign of improvement in Korea’s situation. He added that Korea’s comprehensive strategy, including actively conducting tests and diagnoses as well as tracing the movements of confirmed cases, seems to have been effective.
He went on to ask President Moon to encourage other leaders around the world to share in the kind of comprehensive approach taken by Korea. He stressed the importance of the President speaking up in person to enable countries to actively learn from Korea’s experiences.
President Moon said, “The Korean Government is consistently responding in accordance with the three principles of openness, transparency and democracy, and we are minimizing unnecessary restrictions on the movement of people and goods in line with the WHO’s recommendations. We are grateful to the Director-General and the WHO for trusting and holding our quarantine capabilities and public healthcare measures in high regard.”
With regard to his phone conversations with heads of state or government, President Moon noted, “I’ve recently discussed how to respond to the COVID-19 outbreak over the phone with the leaders of about 20 countries. The Korean Government is willing to provide active support in regard to their requests for our quarantine know-how and supplies as domestic circumstances allow.”
President Moon went on to say, “In the face of this unprecedented global healthcare crisis, the role of the WHO is becoming more important. I hope that the WHO will play a leading role in eradicating COVID-19 by taking active countermeasures through international unity.” President Moon added, “In particular, I highly regard the fact that the WHO has formulated a ‘Strategic Preparedness and Response Plan’ to support countries with lesser developed healthcare systems and is now spearheading the international community’s solidarity through various healthcare initiatives.”
※ On February 5, the WHO announced its Strategic Preparedness and Response Plan to expedite the international community’s coordination and support in relation to the COVID-19 outbreak. As of April 1, the organization had amassed a total of US$677 million.
President Moon added, “The Korean Government plans to contribute not only to the WHO but also to the United Nations-led COVID-19 response programs.
The WHO Director-General said that he is very grateful to President Moon for his leadership as the President has held phone conversations with 20 heads of state or government, adding that the President has completed important tasks. The Director-General went on to say that the WHO Chef de Cabinet and colleagues under him have listened to related policy remarks from the President, who is respected in the international community.
The WHO Director-General said he wanted to make some special suggestions to President Moon. His first suggestion was that he show interest in the provision of quarantine supplies, including diagnostic kits, to Sub-Saharan African nations, and another was that he make a keynote speech as the representative from Asia at the World Health Assembly, which will be held via video conference in May.
※ The Assembly is the WHO’s top decision-making body.
The WHO Director-General explained that, as of now, German Chancellor Angela Merkel and South African President Matamela Cyril Ramaphosa are scheduled to speak as the representatives of Europe and Africa, respectively. He added that it would be a good opportunity to share with other countries Korea’s experiences in its response to the COVID-19 outbreak.
President Moon said, “I am very grateful for the invitation. We will continue to have consultations on details through Minister of Foreign Affairs Kang Kyung-wha and diplomatic channels.”