In February, 15 students from The Frederick Gunn School Model United Nations program will travel to Washington, D.C., to participate in the 60th North American Invitational Model United Nations (NAIMUN), the Western Hemisphere’s preeminent high school Model UN conference. Gunn students will be among more than 3,300 participants at the four-day conference, one of the oldest in the country, featuring “40 mini-simulations, ranging from standard committees like the UN General Assembly and the Security Council to crisis simulations of various regional organizations, national cabinets, corporate boards, and political organizations,” NAIMUN said. The conference is staffed by 250 undergraduate students from Georgetown University, and seeks to “inspire, educate, and empower the next generation of leaders in government, business, and international affairs.”
Since the start of Winter Term, Gunn students have been preparing to represent Libya and Panama and their policies in roles on the United Nations Human Rights Council, the World Health Organization (WHO), the UN Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), the International Labor Organization (ILO), and other Economic and Social Councils. Two students, Neda Strelciunaite ’24 and Charlotte Smith ’24, are assigned to represent Kalahui, Hawaii, on the Unrepresented Nations and Peoples Organization (UNPO), where they will delve into topics including “protecting the social and economic rights of indigenous peoples.” Additionally, Bridie Strowe ’24 is taking on a historical role this year as Yuan Zhenying, one of 24 delegates engaged in topics surrounding the New Culture Movement at Peking University in China in 1917.
“It is a very exciting year for MUN,” said Karoline Theobald P’09 ’14 of the English Department faculty, who serves as the MUN Coordinator along with Andres Sovero, who joined the World Languages Department faculty in September. “We have gained some new students who bring a great deal of energy and enthusiasm to this co-curricular activity. Ryan Ryu ’25 is one of those. We have Matthew Neu ’24, also with a great deal of experience and energy, and Bridie continues to take on a greater leadership role in the group. Meanwhile, in the background we have a number of students who are stepping up as well. Students are leading ‘Fun MUN’ activities, which are simulations to practice before we get there. This is a great opportunity for students new to the activity to get some experience here. We did one last year, but this year the students are stepping up and running them.”
Ryu, a MUN veteran who is in his first year at The Frederick Gunn School, has already taken his participation in the co-curricular program to the next level. Last week, he traveled to United Nations Headquarters in New York to participate in an educational training program on “Sustainable Development Goals and International Solidarity.” The youth program was organized by the Hope to the Future Association, an international NGO under the jurisdiction of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Korea, formally associated with the United Nations Department of Global Communications. Ryu attended briefings led by UN officials, participated in interactive workshops on the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals and worked with peers to present possible project ideas and solutions to global challenges. He also engaged in discussions with UN ambassadors, including Ambassador Hwang Joonkook of the Republic of Korea.
“The goal was to learn about how leaders around the world are working towards the goal of a sustainable future,” Ryu said, “and as a youth and a youth leader, what I can do and what I can learn to contribute to the sustainable future of the globe to become a global leader.”
Through the Hope to the Future Association, Ryu also participated in the Yale Model United Nations Conference, held January 19-22 in New Haven. He was assigned to a specialized agency, the International Court of Justice, and challenged to debate legally and ethically complex questions from real cases of international importance. Specifically, Ryu successfully advocated on behalf of Chile in a case concerning the flow of water in the Silala River, which originates in Bolivia and is used by tens of thousands of people in Bolivia and Chile. “The area of question is whether the Silala River is an international watercourse free to use by both countries, or whether it has been artificially altered to flow into Chile,” Yale MUN said.
In a second case at the Yale Model UN Conference, Ryu was asked to issue a ruling as one of the justices in a 2021 case filed by Armenia in the International Court of Justice against Azerbaijan. “Following massive and widely condemned armed conflict in the 2020 Nagorno-Karabakh war, Armenia claimed that Azerbaijan was in major violation of the International Convention on all Forms of Racial Discrimination (CERD). In response, Azerbaijan filed a counterclaim with the ICJ accusing Armenia of the same violations,” Yale MUN said.
“We are incredibly lucky to have a student who is so serious about this cocurricular,” Theobald said. “He attends other events, and he does not come back and sit on his knowledge. He applies it and helps other students get better. He really is an asset.”
Ryu’s teammates at Gunn have benefited from the knowledge he accumulated as a participant in the the 2021 virtual MUN Conference organized by Korea University, and the 2022 Boston University Simulation of the United Nations (BOSMUN), his first in-person conference. “That’s where my interest really expanded,” said Ryu, who plans to major in international relations or political science or public policy in college. He attributes his interest in politics to his parents. “My mom works in the Korean Congress and my father worked at the United Nations before and now is also involved in politics and international affairs. Even when I was in elementary school, we would always have the news on while we were eating dinner. I’m also very into American politics as well.”
Over Winter Break in December, in preparation for the Yale Model UN Conference, Ryu attended a couple of UN training programs, and shared what he learned with his peers at Gunn upon his return to campus. “I brought all the resources down here and we've been utilizing it very well. I shared it out to every one of the members here so they can get their position papers ready. I hosted a mock MUN conference based on what I did over the break at the training session,” he said, adding that it was a great way for students to learn about how the United Nations systems work, whether they are experienced MUN participants or serving as delegates for the first time.
He and MUN team member Marley Kennedy ’25 even designed a pin for the Gunn students to wear to the conference, and Kennedy and Strowe have organized fundraising for the trip, through sales at the Snack Shack at Linen Rink during several Gunn hockey games this season.
“They are bringing more to the activity,” Theobald said of this year’s MUN students. “Their enthusiasm is contagious. I’m looking forward to a successful conference.”