[VIEWPOINT]Korea must give Ban proper supportForeign Minister Ban Ki-moon’s election as the eighth secretary general of the United Nations is a celebration more joyous than team Korea’s fourth-place finish in the 2002 World Cup and a historic accomplishment that lifts the national pride. And many people are hoping for the boon that might come from a Korean national elected to the position.
Mr. Ban’s triumph will undoubtedly contribute to the national interests of Korea in many ways.
However, considering Korea’s duties in the international community, we cannot help but feel both responsible and concerned as if we were giving our daughter in marriage to a struggling family.
If we deliberate on the status and image of Korea in the international community now that a Korean national will head the UN Secretariat, we can see the way we should be headed.
Among the countries that have produced secretary generals of the United Nations, namely Norway, Sweden, Myanmar, Austria, Peru, Egypt and Ghana, Korea has the highest gross national income based on statistics at the time the leader was elected.
Korea’s contribution to the United Nations budget is the 10th-largest among 199 member countries. Moreover, the international community is increasingly anticipating more contributions from Korea, which has accomplished the quickest economic growth in the world.
While such expectations from the international community weighing on Korea, it is also a golden opportunity for us to establish ourselves as a first-rate country.
In order to step up to the top tier, there are certain tasks we need to resolve urgently.
First, Korea is the 11th-largest economy in the world but is one of the stingiest countries in terms of exendinging official development assistance, which is practically an income tax paid to the global village.
The United Nations recommends that developed countries pay 0.7 percent of their gross national income as official development assistance. However, Korea pays about 0.06 percent of its gross national income at the moment.
Within Mr. Ban’s five-year term as the secretary general, Korea had better increase the assistance up to 0.5 percent of its national income to get rid of its bad reputation as an assistance miser.
Moreover, we should make contributions to the United Nations’ regular budget and peacekeeping expenses that have been in arrears every year, as well as raise donations for development, environment, children, human rights and refugee organizations to our UN budget contribution level.
Secondly, we need to seriously review human rights and racial discrimination issues and seek drastic solutions as a responsible member of the international society.
Especially, we should improve the treatment of foreign laborers and lighten the procedures for foreign refugees seeking asylum in Korea.
Also, we should not neglect the problem of “ugly Koreans” behaving thoughtlessly as they travel to other Asian countries.
The value of the national brand will be enhanced if Korea becomes a country where foreigners can work and be treated fairly, and if Koreans are welcomed abroad.
Finally, the government and other professional institutes need to establish a solid collaboration to educate young Koreans to work for the United Nations and other international organizations and contribute to international development.
While the United Nations and its subsidiaries have more than 50,000 employees, the number of Koreans working there is far too small, considering our national strength. There are some organizations where not one Korean is employed.
In addition to the increased role, contribution and donation, more Koreans should work for international organizations.
In order to increase the participation of Korean citizens, the government should spare no support for the Korean employees already working for the United Nations.
On the role of the United Nations, Dag Hammarskjold, who was from Sweden and is considered one of the greatest UN secretary generals, said, “The UN was not created to take mankind to paradise, but merely to save humanity from hell.”
As the new secretary general begins his endeavors for world peace and development, Korea has an obvious role to support him.
By settling the tasks pointed out earlier, Korea can become a developed country leading the waves of humane globalization.
Such an effort will be the win-win strategy for both Korea and the international society, and the effect of producing a UN secretary general can also lead us there.
* The writer is a president of the Im Gil-jin NGO School and a former director of UNICEF Japan. Translation by the JoongAng Daily staff.
by Samuel Koo