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NO.389 04.18.2018

Professor Irina Bokova Takes the Rostrum at Kyung Hee

On Tuesday, March 27, students filled up more than 250 seats in classroom B117 at Cheongwoon Building (Seoul campus).

Students gathered to hear the lecture by Irina Bokova, Miwon Chair Professor and Honorary Rector of Humanitas College (former UNESCO Director-General). In February, Professor Bokova joined the journey to the ‘Future of Kyung Hee,’ when she received an honorary doctoral degree from the University. As her first step on this journey, she got acquainted with Kyung Hee community and the general public through a series of special lectures, meetings, and a colloquium during a two-week period (from Monday, March 26 to Friday, April 6). On March 27, the ‘1st Bokova Special Lecture’ kicked off under the title, ‘Global Engagement & New Leadership.’


The 1st Bokova Special Lecture emphasizes ‘International Cooperation & Global Leadership’
Professor Bokova described that “the multiple and simultaneous occurrences of climate change, poverty, and inequality around the world cast common challenges that transcend national boundaries,” and stressed that “to resolve these issues, we need to engage in international cooperation and global-scale leadership.”

The international community reached a consensus to build a better future by signing the Paris Agreement on climate change in 2015, and by adopting the ‘UN 2030 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).’ However, due to the division sown by radical nationalism, populism, and ultra-conservatism, the future of such agreements is becoming increasingly precarious. In response, Professor Bokova underlined the need for Soft Power, which espouses transformational power through cultural diversity, scientific research, free thinking and information exchange. In addition, she argued for the need to forge strong international cooperation by “harnessing the power of education and culture,” expressing the desperate cry for leadership that can carry out global agendas.


Need to pursue ‘New Humanism’ that respects human dignity and diversity
As a prerequisite to establish international cooperative relationship, Professor Bokova pointed out the importance of the perspective that recognizes and respects diversity; she also underscored the role of education in sharing this attitude. Having witnessed the destruction of cultural heritages in Syria, Iraq and Mali during her tenure as UNESCO Director-General, she exclaimed, “There is no future in intolerance that refuse to accept the culture of others.”

We must assume an attitude that accepts diversity, because each of us comes from a different cultural, religious, and historical background. Professor Bokova said, “Because humankind has evolved through influencing each other culturally, knowledge of human history allows one to understand diversity.” This is how Professor Bokova substantiated the need to teach history and the need to preserve cultural heritage.

Besides culture and religion, she argued that we must all pursue universal values shared by all humans; this is the definition of ‘New Humanism.’ Since her tenure as Director-General of UNESCO, Professor Bokova has consistently emphasized New Humanism, founded on the principles of respect toward human dignity and cultural diversity, and the freedom to pursue valuable life.


Professor Bokova began her lecture by delineating her reasons behind joining Kyung Hee as Miwon Chair Professor and Honorary Rector of Humanitas College. “Kyung Hee has made significant efforts toward peace, by proposing ‘The International Year and Day of Peace’ at the United Nations in 1981 and by forging ahead at the forefront of delivering peace education, for which I have tremendous respect.”

The special lectures of Professor Bokova will be expanded into a major lecture series that will eventually be one of the key lecture events of Kyung Hee. The colloquium will likely develop into a regular academic seminar or a joint research project. With Professor Bokova onboard, the Humanitas College will make a new leap forward, as well as advancing to new dimensions in terms of global reach and recognition of the University.

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