[VIEWPOINT]Ban’s election a symbol of Korean split

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[VIEWPOINT]Ban’s election a symbol of Korean split

UN Secretary General-elect Ban Ki-moon will assume his duties on the first day of 2007. While his unanimous election to the high office of the world body constitutes a miracle of modern Korean diplomacy, it may also be interpreted as a logical consequence of the contrasting features of state behavior of South Korea and North Korea.
We all remember that the United Nations supervised general elections in South Korea and recognized the Republic of Korea as the sole legitimate government on the Korean Peninsula in 1948. The United Nations defined as an aggressor the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea at the outbreak of the Korean War, ordered the Communist forces to withdraw to the 38th Parallel and encouraged all member nations to render military support to the Republic of Korea. Since then, the United Nations Command in Korea has remained responsible for maintaining and managing the Armistice Agreement.
It is also worth remembering that the United Nations Commission for Unification and Rehabilitation in Korea and the United Nations Korea Rehabili-tation Agency were active until 1973.
South and North Korea became members of the United Nations simultaneously in 1991. That must be the only exception to the divergence of behavior by the North and the South since the division of Korea.
The triumph of Mr. Ban in the election symbolizes the stark contrasts North and South Korea have consistently demonstrated: North Korea funneling all its energy and resources into a military buildup while South Korea focuses on peaceful endeavors.
The most dramatic feature of the episode is the United Nations’ election of a South Korean as secretary general in the same week it adopted a resolution to condemn North Korea’s nuclear test.
Secretary General-elect Ban made it clear in his latest interviews that he would appoint a permanent special envoy for the Korean Peninsula. This means he is prepared to make use of his expertise in finding solutions to this matter, which has turned into a world issue. We hope the special envoy will fulfill his or her duties in an impartial and efficient manner.
The election of Mr. Ban is the Republic of Korea’s celebration rather than his own. I earnestly look forward to many successes in all his undertakings during his tenure, which eventually will bring peace to the Korean Peninsula and could be a blessing for both South and North Korea.
As the chief executive of the world body, Ban will play a fair and autonomous role independent from any parochial interests, including those of the Republic of Korea. In the long run, this will contribute to further enhancing the peace-loving image of South Korea, in extreme contrast to that of North Korea. Therefore, we must not expect any favoritism or nationalistic bias from the new secretary general, let alone Seoul having any intention to influence him.
As Mr. Ban has said many times, his imminent task is to renovate the United Nations into a more effective and strengthened organization, the task on which his predecessor has exerted his efforts over his 10 years in office. Mr. Ban will also inherit many other critical issues such as peacekeeping operations in 16 different areas of the world, arms control and disarmament, counterterrorism, human rights and humanitarian issues, refugees, transnational crimes, environmental degradation and sustained development.
I look forward to a display of Mr. Ban’s diplomatic caliber and political leadership in coordinating effectively the interests of permanent and non-permanent members of the Security Council and all the 192 members of the global organization in dealing with these issues.
I also hope that many young Koreans are inspired by Mr. Ban’s election to be more ambitious and progressive in occupying important posts in international organizations to make better contributions to world peace.

* The writer is a distinguished professor of diplomacy at Yonsei GSIS.

by Kim Jae-bum
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