[VIEWPOINT]Korea's Increasing Weight in the UN
Korea's assessed dues to the United Nations have risen sharply, and within two years it will rank 10th among all nations in shouldering the world body's expenses. Its share in UN peacekeeping operations is expected to rise, together with its contributions for the UN's special organizations such as UNESCO, the World Health Organization, the International Labor Organization and the Food and Agricultural Organization.
Some have said that this decision of the UN General Assembly was premature, considering Korea's economic power. But efforts should be concentrated instead on repositioning the role of Korea within the United Nations, rather than questioning the appropriateness of a decision that is already an established fact.
If Korea is now to bear almost 2 percent of the UN's budget burden, it should assume a corresponding role on the international stage, broadening its interests on world issues and expanding the participation of Koreans in the 30 UN organizations.
Luckily, this year Korea is president of the UN General Assembly, and will also preside over a special session on children's welfare, which opens in September in New York. This provides a good opportunity for Korea's diplomacy to take off.
Toward what ends, then, should Korea pursue policies in international organizations?
First of all, it should transcend the diplomatic framework of politics, security and commerce and invest in human rights, ethics, children's rights, anti corruption measures and the environment. It should develop new values and participate actively in areas that strengthen the unity of human societies. To achieve this, expanded support for the UN's children's fund, development program, population fund and environment program is needed.
Also, Korea should take part in development programs to directly help out underdeveloped nations. This will improve the image of Koreans, who are isolated from international society due to their lack of interest in different cultures and foreign languages.
Since the 1990s, Japan has furthered its security policy and diplomacy through human resources development in underdeveloped countries. It also made considerable efforts to place Japanese citizens in the UN organizations, and it is now experiencing good results.
What of Korea? Tenth in sharing the costs of the United Nations, it is not even among the top 50 in the number of its citizens working in UN organizations. Many of them employ no Koreans at all. In some organizations with several thousand employees, only two or three Koreans serve in subordinate positions. Korea should make it a priority to increase Korean employment in international organizations. Superior candidates with the potential to become high-ranking officials should be located and promoted.
The successful Junior Professional Officer program should be expanded. Candidates are selected by examination and dispatched to international organizations where they work as regular employees for two years, supported at the expense of their home countries. Japan produces 70 such officers every year, but Korea selects only five.
The Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade can assign a department exclusively to run the Junior Professional Officer program. It should appoint a special ambassador to oversee the dispatch of Koreans into international organizations. Fortunately, there is widespread consensus among government officials on these issues. The National Assembly, press and non-governmental organizations of Korea should take up these issues, too, as they do in other countries.
When young Koreans are distributed throughout international organizations and participating in making and implementing policy, Korea will be not only a financially responsible country, but a global actor.
The writer is the director of the UNICEF Office for Japan and special representative to Korea.
by Samuel Koo