Ambassador Nguyen Phuong Nga - President of the Viet Nam Union of Friendship Organizations

In Memory of Uncle Vu Khoan

I was shocked and saddened to receive the news that former Deputy Prime Minister Vu Khoan had passed away.
June 23, 2023 | 15:15

This is a great loss to our country, especially to the diplomatic sector. We have lost a talented, strategic, visionary leader who made great contributions to the country, the foreign affairs sector, and the peaceful, friendly, and cooperative relations between Vietnam and countries around the world.

In Memory of Uncle Vu Khoan
Former Deputy Prime Minister talks with officials and employees of the Viet Nam Union of Friendship Organizations on "Moral example and diplomatic style of President Ho Chi Minh" and people-to-people diplomacy in the new context.

Former Deputy Prime Minister Vu Khoan possesses all the good qualities of a leader, a diplomat with erudite and attentive wisdom to the last days of his life, resilience, a rare sharp analytical and synthesis mind, and extraordinary working ability, he is both a strategic planner, an organizer, and an excellent implementer. Above all, he has a great personality, a person who has dedicatedly devoted himself to the country, spent all his time working, constantly wondering about how to make the country peaceful and developed, so that people have a better life.

For the diplomats of our generation, he is not only a leader but also a father, uncle, brother, teacher, and great friend who is very humble and close. At conferences and seminars, we are immensely interested and look forward to hearing him speak because of his new information and problem-solving, logical thinking which is organized in very scientific and rigorous system, and his neat, concise, simple, witty but very profound and suggestive presentation.

I remember he used to say: “You must see phenomena and issues in development, which means in a changing state, not a fixed one; you must grasp, understand its laws and find out what is new and what affects us”. Just through a few "stories" - in his words, everything becomes clear, easier to understand, remember, and do. When he had to deal with difficult and complicated issues, he always clearly determined and resolutely defended the interests of the nation, but he always reminded us: To do diplomacy, first of all, we must be sincere, we must have a warm heart but keep a cool head. Calmly consider all aspects of the problem. While sticking to a principled stance and protecting our interests, it is necessary to take into account the common interests and interests of partners to find a long-term solution that meets the concerns and interests of the parties. Perhaps that is one of the important factors in his art of negotiation, which makes the success of the negotiating teams directly led by him in the process of resolving border and territorial issues, sea and islands issues, and the international integration process of Vietnam.

As a leader, he is very thorough and meticulous. When I was working at the Press Department, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, at that time he was Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs, he edited the documents submitted by the Press Department very delicately, insightfully, and thoroughly down to each comma, each word and sometimes he wrote it himself. We often say to each other that working under his leadership is "extremely delighted" because we have learned a lot as he is strict but always respectful, listens, never harsh to subordinates, and never demands subordinates to serve him personally.

He is an example of devotion and passion for work, of the spirit of non-stop self-study, even at his high age. For him, reading and working is life. “I write for fun,” he said. I always remember the image of him sitting engrossed in writing with the computer. He attaches great importance to research work, he reads a lot, and even though he already has a very deep and comprehensive knowledge of history, economics, and law, he is constantly updating, never ignoring the latest books or the latest information that we do not know yet. Less than three months ago he sent me a reference to the article he had just written, which analyzes the changes in the world situation. I remember once when he attended a meeting to review the work of the Press & Information Department, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, he asked us: "Do you, staff in the Press & Information Department, read books?" I ventured to tell him: "We are so busy, the Press Department has to handle a lot of daily work and affairs, so there is almost no time to read and research". He said, "That's not possible. The Press Department is busy. I understand and sympathize, but you can't say you don't read because you are busy. No matter how busy you are, you have to read. You work in diplomacy and journalism, you have to read even more".

He is a treasure of knowledge and experience, always interested in sharing, guiding, and instructing the next generations. Though he is busy with his work, he always makes time for the youth. When the Ministry of Foreign Affairs opened training courses for young and promising cadres, he enthusiastically became a lecturer, sharing his knowledge and experience, especially in research methods and negotiation skills. These refresher courses were affectionately and proudly named by the students as "Class VK". He always thought to build a team of diplomats with good knowledge and skills because according to him: "Skill is the bridge to bring knowledge to life". I still vividly remember the times when we asked for his articles or advice, he always very dedicatedly guided, instructed, and shared.

He lived a very simple life, treasured real values, and was very allergic to flattery, ostentatiousness, and pompousness. Especially, he is very economical in spending the State budget. However, when he needed to spend on necessary things, he decided quickly. In 2004, the first Asia-Europe Meeting (ASEM) was held in Vietnam. The conference has the important content of admitting new members and receiving great attention from the international press. The Press Department was assigned the task of developing a plan to organize the conference's press center. We were very concerned that a lot of reporters registered to work at the event, while the organizers plan to arrange only a very small area to build a press center, not enough space to set up facilities and equipment to serve the work of audio and video reporters. He was the Deputy Prime Minister at that time, personally came to review the preparations for the Meeting, and asked me to report. After listening to my presentation, he said: "Our conditions are still very difficult, we don't do what is unnecessary and wasteful, but we must do what is needed" and immediately directed to spend more space to set up a press center with all necessary equipment for reporters to work. Thanks to that, we had the conference's international press center which, although still modest, operated very efficiently. Now, every time I pass Hoang Dieu Street, which used to be the site of the 2004 ASEM Summit Press Center, I am reminded of him.

He has a great interest in people-to-people diplomacy. When I was assigned to work at the Viet Nam Union of Friendship Organizations, he said: "If you and the Union need anything, just tell me, I will help you with anything." When we invited him to talk to the union's officials and staff, although his health had not completely recovered after the treatment for a serious illness, he was still very enthusiastic, dedicated, spending a lot of time sharing and inspiring us with his profound and touching memories of Uncle Ho, helping us to understand more about Uncle Ho's style and ethics and Ho Chi Minh's thought on people-to-people diplomacy. Unexpectedly, this is also the last time the officials and employees of the Viet Nam Union of Friendship Organizations can welcome him and listen to his talk.

In Memory of Uncle Vu Khoan
Officials and employees of the Viet Nam Union of Friendship Organizations welcomed and listened to former Deputy Prime Minister Vu Khoan talk about Uncle Ho's style and ethics and Ho Chi Minh's thoughts on people-to-people diplomacy.

He has gone to the world of decreased, but we, those who are fortunate to know him and have precious time, though few, working with him, are forever imprinted with beautiful memories about him, still remember his words: "Try to be a nice person". He is forever a leader, a beloved and respected teacher, "Uncle Vu Khoan" - a person who, throughout his full life, has helped us understand more about what a "kind person" is.

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