[Outlook]Beyond bordersMary Robinson, the first female president of Ireland (1990-1997), insisted in an international conference for sharing views on energy and democracy that “it is not a simple matter of energy but a serious violation of human rights.” Her voice sounded angry, disappointed and sorrowful.
During the conference, the United Nations Development Programme reported that currently 1.6 billion people around the world lack electricity in their homes, but that the number would only fall to 1.4 billion by 2030. How can we tackle the global challenges of an increasing scarcity of energy and a widening gap between the wealthy and the poor?
Just a few days ahead of Korea’s 17th presidential election, some people may say that this is no time to worry about global crises or the fate of humankind. However, no matter how important it is, we should bear in mind that the election is not the end of our lives but another beginning. The pain and crises facing humankind and society cannot be resolved by a single election. Elections should serve as catalysts to help establish right values. We are in a position during our history to answer the questions, “What kind of challenges do we need to cope with, and how can we resolve such problems?”
In this regard, I believe that the election will provide a window of opportunity to rearrange our national choices and guidelines. Therefore I would like to emphasize that today’s most urgent global issues focus on human rather than national security. The most crying need of our time is to address the global threats caused by extreme disparities in the global community. It is a prerequisite that we are actively engaged in the global mainstream as we drive forward with Korea’s development.
Today’s world is faced with multidimensional conflicts and crises ―such as the gap between rich and poor, energy and climate change, nuclear proliferation and nationalism and identity.
Korea is not an exception. We should actively participate in concerted efforts by the international community to deal with global challenges in order to guarantee Korea’s successful industrialization and democratization.
In addition, a stable international order should be established for our further development. We live in an age of resource wars, when a stable supply of energy has great influence over the speed and quality of national development.
As one of the most oil-dependent nations, we have no choice but to spare no effort to devise a global management system designed to secure a stable energy supply. Against this backdrop, we should be ready to make sacrifices.
We must drive forward more energetically with aid programs to developing countries and take an active part in shared efforts to fight global warming.
I am not saying that we need to move forward to the point of going beyond our means. However, if the shared dream of the Korean people is to be a world-class nation where everyone enjoys wealth and lives freely, one way to realize our dream is to resolve impending challenges to humanity and be actively engaged in global efforts to do so.
A national interest in human well-being is directly linked to the South-North Korean issues. Some of the big challenges facing the North Korean people are energy scarcity and poor quality of life caused by failed economic policies.
It is a common-sense conclusion that the Korean Peninsula, where energy resources do not exist at all, has no choice but to rely on nuclear development. Korea’s increasing dependence on atomic development, which began 30 years ago, and active involvement in the north’s light-water reactor projects in the 1990s can be understood from the strategic energy perspective.
We need to remember that peaceful nuclear energy use may serve as a shortcut to human well-being but the military use of nuclear energy can only be a means to securing the well-being of a nation or a regime.
Therefore, South and North should join hands to guarantee that nuclear energy will be used peacefully for the good of humanity. This will eliminate the ongoing tension surrounding the North’s nuclear issues.
Meanwhile, the possibility of a nuclear war that threatens our national existence should be erased. This will clear the way to faithfully implementing the provisions of a joint denuclearization statement.
There is a long way to go before we become the unified nation and national community that we have been dreaming of. Needless to say, human dignity is safe in a nation that respects human rights.
However, bearing our dream in mind, the possibility of success can be heightened when we formulate our national strategies so that they include the following three dimensions -- the good of our domestic society, the good of the two Koreas, and the good of the international community.
Today marks the 60th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Remember that UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon is at the forefront of implementing concerted efforts to realize the betterment of humankind.
*The writer, a former prime minister, is an adviser to the JoongAng Ilbo. Translation by the JoongAng Daily staff.
by Lee Hong-koo