From Korean pop music to skydiving to Earth – not-your-typical diplomatic meetings for UN Secretary-General

24 October 2012

From ongoing conflicts to humanitarian crises and everything in between those extremes – the range of items on the agenda of United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon tend to cover the entire panoply of challenges facing the international community.

However, occasionally, there is scope for what could be described as not-your-typical diplomatic encounters – as was the case on Tuesday, when the UN chief met with South Korean pop star PSY and Austrian skydiver Felix Baumgartner.

Through his song ‘Gangnam Style,’ PSY has become an international sensation, with his satirical song’s video clip – and its horse-riding-like dance moves – viewed more than half a billion times since its release in July.

“I'm a bit jealous,” the Secretary-General joked as he met with the singer. “Until two days ago, someone told me I am the most famous Korean in the world. Now I have to relinquish. I have no regrets.”

PSY added, “So now you have first- and second-famous Korean in the same building!”

In their exchange, in addition to trying the song’s well-known dance moves, the Secretary-General noted that the singer could be a force for global good. Mr. Ban has previously indicated his belief in the power of music, particularly in helping to overcome intolerance, given its ability to reach audiences in ways that many other forms of culture or interaction cannot do.

Earlier on Tuesday, Mr. Ban met with Mr. Baumgartner, who recently broke the speed of sound – and a number of world records – as he jumped almost 40 kilometres from a capsule at the edge of space in the world’s highest-ever freefall.

Reportedly, more than eight million people watched Mr. Baumgartner via live streams on the Internet provider Google’s YouTube site, in addition to countless others who watched it afterwards – including the Secretary-General.

In their encounter, Mr. Ban praised the 43-year-old skydiver’s courage as well as the inspiration provided by the challenging jump to youth around the world, while Mr. Baumgartner offered to give the UN chief skydiving lessons.

Addressing journalists earlier this week, Mr. Ban’s spokesperson, Martin Nesirky, spoke about the importance of the Secretary-General meeting with people from all walks of life, from all parts of the world.

“The Secretary-General has many interesting meetings and important meetings,” Mr. Nesirky said. “It is important that the Secretary-General is able to reach out to different parts of society, whether it is on a political track dealing with extremely weighty matters, such as Syria or Mali and the Sahel, but it is also important to be able to engage with other audiences too, for example, those who have been enthused by the scientific aspects of Felix Baumgartner’s leap from the edge of space.”


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