By Kyra Baffo

After completing the NYC Global Governance Program, I finally get to say that I have met a diplomat. We met with the Finnish Ambassador to the UN, Ambassador Salovaara, and Ambassador Ham who represented South Korea. Both Ambassadors offered unique and sometimes overly diplomatic, perspectives on their country’s role in the foreign diplomacy. We first met with Ambassador Salavaara at the Finnish Mission which was conveniently located directly across from UN Headquarters. Upon entering the conference room, we were greeted by state of the art views of NYC skyscrapers.

Ambassador Salavaara discussed topics ranging from Angry Birds and Nokia (which originated in Finland) to Brexit and immigration. He highlighted aspects of Finland that many of us don’t know; turns out, Finland is not geographically gifted (it borders Russia and had to continuously defend itself from Russian invasion), nor is it abundant in natural resources. As a result, Salavaara argued that the county has resorted to widespread investment in their own human capital. Finland’s education system is one of the best in the world, and they have created a comparative advantage in the tech industry. Salovaara highlighted that a teaching profession in Finland is incredibly lucrative, and competitive.

One can’t help but wonder what such an investment in the U.S would look like! Food for thought. Salovaara also touched the important of the EU, and stated that it is a “comprehensive cooperation machine”, one that once represented stability, prosperity, and security. He really seemed to believe that the EU is critical, and the integration of Europe is the only way true economic prosperity is achievable. It was definitely interesting to hear this perspective during a time when Brexit is looming and resurgent nationalism has dispersed throughout Europe. He positioned Finland as a country that sees cooperation as very fundamental to Europe’s prosperity and identity.

Our visit with Ambassador Ham at the Republic of Korea mission was hugely anticipated and exciting for our cohort. President Trump had just made history as the first U.S president to step on North Korean soil, and we were eager to ask the ambassador about his position on U.S-Korean relations- and of course, China. First, pro-tip when visiting the the Korean mission: get there early! The mission is beautifully designed and has amazing artwork and decor that you we definitely want to take a look at.

The biggest takeaway from Ambassador Ham was that South Korea’s main role on the peninsula is to act as a facilitator, supporter, and initiator. He highlighted that Korea is the only nation surrounded by 4 great powers (the U.S, China, Russia, and Japan) and therefore, foreign diplomacy is hugely important for their economic and national security. Ham argued that Korea could act as somewhat of mediator between the Global North and Global South; this is largely because South Korea itself went from a poor agrarian economy to a globalized and prosperous democracy in a single generation- something Ambassador Ham said he was very proud of. Ultimately, the greatest takeaway was that both ambassadors represent countries that are more or less restricted in their scope and power, but use the tools they have to promote cooperation and balance.

Kyra studied abroad in New York in Summer 2019.