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(Yonhap Interview) Tourism key to reducing world poverty, promoting unity: UN foundation chief

All Headlines 11:25 April 04, 2017

By Kim Seung-yeon

SEOUL, April 4 (Yonhap) -- Tourism is an essential instrument that can serve to alleviate the chronic poverty in underdeveloped countries and lay the groundwork for economic growth, the head of a United Nations-affiliated organization said Tuesday.

"The tourism industry can provide livelihoods for 2 billion people in the world who are living in absolute poverty at the moment. It gives them jobs as souvenir sellers and tourist guides. It can really be a driving force that brings changes in their lives," Doh Young-shim, the chairperson of the Seoul-based U.N. ST-EP Foundation, said in an interview with Yonhap News Agency.

The former ambassador of tourism and culture under the Roh Moo-hyun administration is geared up to bring her initiative forward as a tourism expert, as she has been endorsed by the South Korean government to run for the secretary-general of the U.N. World Tourism Organization (UNWTO).

Doh, 70, has dedicated a big part of her career to working for U.N.-affiliated bodies advocating tourism and sustainable development. Taking the job as a government representative to the UNWTO ST-EP Foundation in 2004 led her to spearhead the local establishment of the anti-poverty foundation, now located in central Seoul. ST-EP stands for sustainable tourism for eliminating poverty.

"I thought Korea was ready to do something for the underprivileged nations, as a country that once had a per capita income of US$69 in the 1960s, which has since developed into one of a few countries that hosted both the Olympics and World Cup. I told the government at that time, 'Let's do something about sharing' our experience," Doh said.

This photo, provided by the Seoul-based United Nations ST-EP Foundation, shows its chairperson Doh Young-shim, who is running for the Secretary-General at the U.N. World Tourism Organization, on April 4, 2017. (Yonhap)

If elected, she will not only be the first Asian but also the first female to take the helm of the UNWTO in its 91-year history.

"Tourism is a soft-power industry that produces one-eleventh of the jobs around the world, with more than half (of the workforce) filled by women. And Asia has become a dynamic region for tourism. I'd say it is about time that we had a woman (at the UNWTO)."

The incumbent Secretary-General Taleb Rifai is due to end his second four-year consecutive term at the UNWTO this year. The 32-member executive council will vote on the election at its Madrid headquarters on May 12. Aside from Doh, there are six candidates on the ballot, with two from Africa, and others from Europe and Latin America.

The former South Korean lawmaker is the only candidate out of the seven who has a running mate. Carlos Vogeler, a sitting executive director for UNWTO Member Relations, has teamed up with Doh to take the initiative in enhancing growth in underdeveloped regions through tourism.

This undated picture, provided by the U.N. ST-EP Foundation, shows Doh (L) with her running partner Carlos Vogeler (R), the current executive director of UNWTO Member Relations, on April 4, 2017. (Yonhap)

As a candidate, Doh proposed to bring in know-how from ICT technologies pioneered by South Korean firms as a way to nurture global tourism.

"Using our cutting-edge ICT skills, I believe we can elevate the value of tourism to an innovative level that creates stability and new opportunities," she said.

Education will be another key agenda for Doh as she strongly views it as the driving force behind a country's economic growth.

The Thank You Small Library project by the ST-EP foundation was an outcome of her long-held belief that has benefited children in some 18 countries, mostly in Africa, by providing access to reading and studying facilities.

She emphasized that joint efforts from both public and private sectors are vital to boosting contributions from global communities going forward.

"Tourism cannot progress without engaging with the private sector, from hotels and aviation to hospitality," she said. "I hope I'd be able to get all parties into dialogue so that available resources can be mobilized to move forward on various initiatives."

This file photo, provided by the ST-EP foundation, shows Doh standing in between UNWTO Secretary-General Taleb Rifai (L) and former U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon (R) at an award ceremony in Seoul, on March 22, 2017. Ban received an award of gratitude from the UNWTO for his contribution to world peace and development of tourism. (Yonhap)

elly@yna.co.kr
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