[FOUNTAIN]Peacekeeping costs money, not just troops

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[FOUNTAIN]Peacekeeping costs money, not just troops

The United Nations’ first peacekeeping operations were in 1948, after Israel’s war of independence against four neighboring Arab countries. When an armistice was reached, the United Nations began what was known as the UN Truce Supervision Organization on May 29, 1948, in Jerusalem. Its peacekeeping officers were unarmed.
That changed after the second Arab-Israeli War, in 1956. In November of that year, the United Nations sent in their first armed peacekeeping forces (lightly armed, but armed nevertheless). That organization evolved into today’s United Nations Peacekeeping Operations (PKO).
With the exception of the First United Nations Emergency Forces, the peacekeeping operations are usually directed by the UN Security Council. Because the United States and the Soviet Union were both permanent Security Council members, peacekeeping activities during the Cold War were relatively few; there were only two missions during the 1950s. The pace picked up again after the Cold War ended.
Peacekeeping operations, of course, cost money. The first two missions were covered under the general United Nations budget, but the financing method changed in 1956. Because of the enormous costs, the United Nations created a special fund for peacekeeping, billing half of the expense to the United States and half to the rest of the membership.
It became the rule that member countries would share the expense of the peacekeeping missions. But contributions are often in arrears, partly because keeping the peace is not always member nations’ top priority. As of the end of 2004, the United States, Germany, China, France and Italy were all in arrears.
Korea joined the PKO in 1993, sending military engineers to Angola and Somalia. Korea has been an active member when it comes to contributing troops for peacekeeping. However, the country’s financial contribution does not live up to the standard set in troop commitment. As of the end of 2004, Korea was $70.30 million in arrears. Of the top ten U.N. contributors, Korea was delinquent on the largest portion of its debt ― 65 percent.
Discussions are underway about expanding the Security Council, and Japan is seeking a permanent seat. Korea wants to prevent that, because of Japan’s distortions of history. But Korea’s stance could be undermined by the fact that it is behind in its PKO contributions. Japan has been diligently fulfilling its own responsibility in that regard. This issue could make it more difficult for Korea to make its case against Japan.

by Ahn Sung-kyoo

The writer is a deputy political news editor of the JoongAng Ilbo.
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