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News & Analysis

South Korea Set to Make Rapid Strides in Global Arena

By Valentina Ieri

NEW YORK (IDN | INPS) - North Korea's nuclear ambition has not been checked effectively even though there were four resolutions of the United Nations Security Council. And North Korea's alleged hydrogen bomb test and a successive rocket launch early February culminated their die-hard ambition to have a substantial nuclear capability together with delivery means.

Against this backdrop, the Republic of Korea (ROK,South Korea) is certainly putting its foot down and stepping up as a key player in the global arena, particularly on North Korean issue. [P39] CHINESE TEXT VERSION  PDFJAPANESE TEXT VERSION PDF | KOREAN TEXT VERSION PDF

Since 2006, North Korea has conducted four rounds of nuclear tests and six rounds of missile launches, making it an unprecedented precarious situation surrounding the Korean Peninsula.

In an interview with INPS (the International Press Syndicate), Ambassador Choonghee Hahn, Deputy Permanent Representative of the Mission of South Korea to the United Nations, said: "Talking for the sake of talking is not acceptable anymore. This is a systematic and intentional violation of the UN Security Council resolution by North Korea, that clearly disdains and ridicules us. It is an outrageous situation which requires an extreme response."

"North Korea's militarization and nuclear capabilities are much more advanced than ten years ago," said Hahn. “We want robust and substantive sanctions measures to make North Korea to realize that they do not have any other choices but to stop their provocations and abandon their nuclear weapons programme."

Responding to the launch of the space satellite on February 7, the UN Security Council called for an "emergency meeting" referring to it as an act of threat against international security. UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon condemned the act as a "deplorable violation" of UN sanctions.

"The Security Council must be united in sending a strong and unequivocal message, as 'mediocre' measures will simply embolden North Korea to continue to conduct further nuclear test and missiles launch in the future," remarked Hahn.

Also South Korea’s Foreign Minister Yun Byung-se, who held discussions with representatives of the Security Council members and the UN Secretary-General on February 9-10 in New York, has stressed the need for a strong and effective Security Council sanctions resolution. This resolution should become “the terminating resolution in order to prevent North Korea from conducting fifth and sixth nuclear tests”, he said.

In response to North Korea’s tests, the ROK government closed down on February 10 the Gaesong Industrial Complex, a special administrative zone located ten kilometres (six miles) north of the Korean Demilitarised Zone.

"The Gaesung complex," explained the Korean Ambassador, "has been an historic symbol of the inter-Korean relationship for over 15 years, which fetches the North Korean economy between 100-120 million U.S. dollars a year."

"It was not an easy decision to close down all the 125 small companies of the complex, but we do not want any part of this money to go towards the development of weapons of mass destruction," stressed Hahn.

Over 54,000 North Korean workers lost their jobs and along with their immediate families altogether 200,000 would suffer from economic distress.

To add fuel to the fire, North Korea’s President Kim Jong-un expelled all the South Korean managerial personnel from Gaesung, forcing them to leave immediately and abandon all the expensive equipment.

However, despite the tensions on the peninsula, South Korea is keen on taking a leading role to maintain stability, peace and economic prosperity in the country – in the hope of a reunification of the two Koreas – and in the entire East Asia region.

"The ROK is indeed a historical example of good governance, whose policies managed to transform the country from a major aid-recipient to a major aid-donor," underlined Hahn.

"The Korean development process, known as Saemaul Undong, led to successful political and economic outcomes. Today we are trying to share our experience by combining our regional contribution with our global contribution."

Recently, the ROK expanded its leadership by launching initiatives to guarantee sustainable development, environmental protection and international cooperation, in accordance with the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

In 2013, President Park launched the North-East Asia Peace and Cooperation Initiative (NAPCI) in order to promote sustainable peace and cooperation among the neighbouring countries – China and Japan – and move beyond the so-called "Asian Paradox".

According to the NAPCI 2015 report, the initiative "is a key element of the Trustpolitik [...] A future oriented effort by the ROK Government to replace a structure of conflict and discord in the region with an order of dialogue and cooperation".

Another project proposed in 2014 is the Eurasia Initiative, aimed at economic cooperation in the energy sector between East Asia, Central Asia, Russia and the South Caucasus.

The plan is to build a new energy network, of gas and oil pipeline in the region, and a Silk Road Express (SRE), which would connect Busan (South Korea) with London, via North Korea and Russia.

Additionally, in July 2015, the ROK was elected to the presidency of the UN Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC), and will chair the council until July 2016.

On his election as ECOSOC President, Oh Joon, the Permanent Representative of the Mission of the Republic of Korea to the UN, said: "I believe that the development that my country experienced can happen anywhere in the world. The ECOSOC will support bringing economic and social development to regions where they are in need."

Hahn explained that in July 2016, under the umbrella of ECOSOC at the UN Headquarters, Korea would preside over a High-Level Political Forum (HLPF) for the first time since the adoption of the 2030 Agenda, as a way to review and follow up on the SDGs.

"Korea not only will lead the modalities of the Forum, but will also set the stage for the discussion of issues such as sustainable development, gender issues, girls education, inequality and good governance, for the next 15 years," added Hahn.

South Korea will also strengthen its role in the global arena due to the fact that for the first time the UN Department of Public Information-NGOs (DPI-NGO) Conference will be held in Asia. The 66th annual conference takes place in the city of Gyeongju on May 30 and June 1, 2016.

Known as the largest gathering of NGOs from all over the world, with over 1,500 NGO representatives, the Conference will bring together members of the civil society, UN officials, academics, policy experts, parliamentarians and the private sectors to discuss the theme: "Education for Global Citizenship".

It is the first time that a major UN high-level event will focus on the concept of Education and Global Citizenship, noted Hahn.

"There are many global challenges – climate change, extremism and intolerance – so we need to educate people to understand such complexities, raise awareness, increase mutual respect, accept diversity regardless of race and restore human dignity."

Global Citizenship Education is an education that encompasses all other types of educations. “It is an opportunity to discuss the responsibilities and strategies to best achieve the 17 Goals of the 2030 Agenda among all the different stakeholders," he continued.

The ideals of equality, respect and transparency are reflected as well in the way the Korean Mission to the UN in New York is leading the group Uniting for Consensus (UfC), which calls for a vital reform of the Security Council.

The group asks for a transparent, accountable, democratic and inclusive reform, where any country could be eligible for running for a seat in the Council on the base of its constructive role and contribution. An expansion or enlargement of the number of permanent seats with veto power is not right and appropriate answer considering the current and future situation of the international community, explained the Korean Ambassador:

"The permanent seat with veto power reflects the unique and special political arrangement of the post-WWII based on the lessons of twenty years’ crisis between the two world wars, which aims to assure the unity of the big five players of the Cold War era – UK, France, China, Russia, U.S. – but after 70 years it is unrealistic to just enlarge the same format maintaining the same concept."

Contrarily to the UfC, other groups such as the G4 – led by Germany, Japan, Brazil and India – and the African Group whose position was known as the Ezulwini Consensus, argue for an increase of permanent seats with veto together with an increase in non-permanent seats.    

According to Hahn, UfC ‘s main idea is to provide countries that perform well during their initial presence in the Council with an opportunity to be re-elected.

"The concept of ‘long-term re-electable seats’ is an appropriate way to abide to the principles of the U.N. Charter of fair and democratic representation and equal opportunity based on the accountability. It also reflects the current international political environment, whereby a country's power configuration and influence can shift quite rapidly," highlighted Hahn.

The novelty behind UfC is its willingness to involve other actors around the activities of the Security Council, as the reform of the Council could also touch on the daily life of ordinary people, said Hahn.

"Gaining the support of all important stakeholders such as private sector, think-tanks, NGOs, and the civil society is important and necessary in helping the UN member states reaching a consensus,” said the Korean Ambassador.

“The general public needs to know what is happening in the Security Council and how the reform of the Council will affect their life, which will support their legitimate right to express their opinions on the Security Council reform. In this way, the Council can improve its performance, its democratic representation and accountability," he added. [IDN-InDepthNews – 24 February 2016]

IDN is flagship of the International Press Syndicate.

Photo: Ambassador Hahn Choong-hee, Deputy Permanent Representative of the Republic of Korea to the United Nations in New York | Credit: UN Multimedia