South Korean cartoon hero becomes UNHCR Goodwill Envoy

News Stories, 25 July 2008

© UNHCR/H-J.Yoo
Janice Lyn Marshall, UNHCR representative in South Korea, and Shin Chul, chief executive of Robot Taekwon V Co., at the appointment ceremony of Robot Taekwon V as UNHCR Goodwill Envoy.

SEOUL, South Korea, July 25 (UNHCR) He's a superhero who regularly swoops in to save Koreans from danger and now he's dedicating his star status to helping refugees. Robot Taekwon V, an iconic martial arts cartoon hero as famous in South Korea as Superman is in the West, has signed on as the UN refugee agency's Goodwill Envoy in South Korea.

"It's a first for UNHCR to join forces with an animated character in this way," UNHCR Representative in South Korea Janice Lyn Marshall said after the signing ceremony at Robot Taekwon V's 32nd birthday party on Thursday. "We thought that being associated with this character, who is extremely popular with all age groups and both sexes, would give us huge potential for recognition in the Republic of Korea, where we are still largely unknown."

For the next year, the character, which uses Taekwondo to protect the weak, will collaborate with UNHCR on events such as World Refugee Day, United Nations Day and other occasions. His image will also be used on fund-raising and promotional materials in South Korea.

Robot Taekwon V is seen as a guardian figure saving Korea a country that has been invaded by foreign countries numerous times in its history from danger.

"What the character is fighting for is akin to what the United Nations stands for world peace and stopping those who would try to destroy it," Marshall said.

On the Korean-language website of UNHCR Korea at www.unhcr.or.kr the robot himself explained his motivation for working with UNHCR.

"For the last 30 years I have protected Korean families and children from evil and guarded their hope and courage," he said in an interview. "Now I have to go beyond Korea and into the world and try my best to help the children not to lose hope, but to realize their dreams."

In South Korea, people know little about the 32 million refugees and others in the world whom UNHCR looks after. But Robot Taekwon V said he would make a link by reminding them that many Koreans themselves were displaced during the Korean War in the early 1950s.

"I'm also going to inform Koreans about refugee situations around the world, together with the UNHCR representation in Korea," the robot said in the interview. "I know that Koreans are warm-hearted so I'm sure they will have empathy."

By Hye-Jeong Yoo in Seoul, South Korea