[VIEWPOINT]Korea’s golden opportunity

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[VIEWPOINT]Korea’s golden opportunity

In March, UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan advocated the creation of the Peace Building Commission, or PBC, which would be designed to expand the capacity of the United Nations and help developing countries restructure their economies and establish democracy. It’s the latest effort by the United Nations, which has been trying to help the third world for the past five decades.
The PBC would be a UN organization helping the poverty- and conflict-ridden countries in Africa, the Middle East, Central America, South America and Asia to stand on their own. The commission will consist of 20 to 25 countries, including the five permanent members of the UN Security Council and other nations wishing to participate in the cause.
The UN General Assembly will vote on the establishment of the Peace Building Commission in September. If the motion passes, the Peace Building Commission will be the most important organization created since the United Nations was established in 1945. Many predict that the PBC would be the second powerhouse in the United Nations, next to the Security Council.
The creation of the Peace Building Commission is a great opportunity for South Korea, in that it would be a strategic shortcut for Korea to become a key member of the international community, for the following three reasons:
First, if South Korea is an active member of the Peace Building Commission, the country’s political and diplomatic status would be elevated to the level of a non-permanent member of the Security Council.
It would be able to sit at a table with the likes of the United States, Russia and China and discuss not only the third world’s problems but also all other international issues regarding the establishment of peace and security. It means Korea can rank with the powerful nations that oversee the world.
Through this process, Korea can have the chance to reinforce bilateral and multilateral relationships with the United States and other superpowers.
As a result of having a high profile, Korea would be able to obtain high-profile information. By participating in the Peace Building Commission, Korea can elevate its international status, expand its diplomatic influence and be privy to advanced intelligence.
The Peace Building Commission provides a useful framework in resolving the North Korean issues. Let’s consider the situation where the North Korean regime suddenly collapses.
The biggest worry for Seoul is taking on the burden of the reconstruction costs, which would be several hundred billion dollars. However, if South Korea is a member of the Peace Building Commission, we can veer the North Korean policy toward the international community to South Korea’s advantage through prior consultation.
Naturally, we can reduce the amount billed to South Korea for the reconstruction of the North.
Secondly, being on the commission would also greatly help the nation carry out the policies that it is pursuing independently. At present, the Korean government wants to become the financial hub of the Northeast Asia and play the role of a balancer in the region. Both goals require special attention and support the international community. Partici-pating in the Peace Building Commis-sion will be valuable to Korea’s dream of becoming the financial hub of the Northeast Asia, as well as President Roh Moo-hyun’s policy goal of becoming a regional balancer.
Thirdly, Korea is a “model nation” to have simultaneously achieved democratization and economic development after World War II. Many Southeast Asian, Middle Eastern, African and Latin American countries wish to learn from Korea. In this context, Korea would be well suited to the purpose of the Peace Building Commission.
For the last five decades, Korea has received considerable assistance from the international community. Now, it’s time to pay back the debt. Korea’s participation in the Peace Building Commission would be a golden opportunity to shed the title of a developing country and debut as a mature member of the international community.
I would like to emphasize one thing: If we ever participate in the Peace Building Commission, we should do so earnestly. If we seem to be assisting other nations half-heartedly as we have done in the past, it might be better not to embark on this road at all.
We have to promise economic assistance that befits a country that is among the top 12 trading nations in the world. If Korea can enhance its standing in the world through the Peace Building Commission, we can use it as leverage overseas.
If Korea lets this opportunity slip, the chance will naturally go to Tokyo, strengthening Japan’s voice on Asian issues, including the matters concerning the Korean Peninsula. To Korea, that would be a terrible diplomatic nightmare.

* The writer is a managing partner at Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld LLP in Washington D.C. Translation by the JoongAng Daily staff.

by Kim Suk-han
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