The next generation of Ban Ki-Moons

Intergovernmental organizations (IGOs) have been flocking to the Republic of Korea (ROK), thanks to the incumbent government’s policies. Seoul declared last March that it will host 50 intergovernmental organizations until 2020. Incheon, the third largest city in Korea, has established G-Tower in Songdo district, purely to host intergovernmental organizations. Songdo district hosted the Green Climate Fund and the World Bank last December. Considering most of the organizations are headquartered in Europe or America, Korea is doing very well.

Korean students have become more interested in international organizations since Ban Ki-moon (UN Secretary General), Jim Yong Kim (World Bank President, Korean American), and Jaehyang So (World Bank Director), have become role models. Another reason is the Republic of Korea’s increased international status. In fact, ROK has become one of the major donor countries in the world, joining OECD’s Development Assistance Committee in 2009.

When IOM’s Operations Chief for Human Resources, John Thomas, came to Seoul National University to lecture at a Career Fair for intergovernmental organizations he professed himself “shocked” at how many of the attendees had heard of IOM, and at how fast the IOM brochures ran out!

The four-day fair, held by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs was a hit before it even began, as an ambitious, internationally-leaning group of Korean youngsters get ready for careers overseas. 

The fair visited four universities and featured IOM, UNEP, ILO, OECD, and UNV. Their staff  offered useful tips on how to get into the “business” and how to do well during job interviews. For students who couldn’t come to the fair, MOFA activated “LiveMOFA”, an online broadcasting platform which was visited by almost 15,000 people.

MOFA is taking the phenomenon as an opportunity to increase the number of Koreans working in this prestigious sector. Currently there are 480 Koreans worldwide working for Intergovernmental Organizations, according to MOFA, which is relatively small, compared to Korea’s reputation as a world economic power. MOFA has increased the number of Junior Professional Officers (JPOs) from 5 to 15 in 2011 as a statement of intent.

There is, however, a concerned voice on the overheated interest. Jungwon Bang, Resource Management Officer at IOM Seoul said such enthusiasm toward international development is desirable, but unlike what’s seen in media, working for IGOs requires a lot of commitment and sacrifice. “International Organizations are great platforms to help people in need. But still, you have to understand exactly what you’re getting yourself into,” she cautioned.