Nation marks 20-year anniversary in the UN

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Nation marks 20-year anniversary in the UN

South Korea will this week mark the 20th anniversary of its admission to the United Nations at a time when the country is revving up its efforts to emerge as a global donor state from a recipient one, officials said yesterday.

The UN General Assembly approved the separate memberships of both South and North Korea on Sept. 17, 1991. Before then, the two Koreas were nonvoting observers in the global organization.

The admission of South Korea into the UN marked another milestone in its relations as the UN has always loomed large in South Korean history.

South Korea’s first general election was supervised by a UN commission in 1948. When the Korean War broke out in 1950, the UN swiftly assembled an international force to defend South Korea from the invasion by the communist North and succeeded in protecting the South’s freedom and independence.

“The freedom, independence, economic development, democracy, political liberties and human rights which we Koreans enjoy today all owe a great deal to the United Nations,” former Prime Minister Han Seung-soo told a recent forum marking the 20th anniversary of South Korea’s membership in the UN

“I would not be exaggerating too much if I were to state that had there not been the United Nations, there would not be a free and prosperous Korea today,” Han said.

Over the past two decades, South Korea’s diplomacy in the UN blossomed. Seoul was elected a nonpermanent member of the UN Security Council during 1997-99, and assumed the Presidency of the 56th Session of the General Assembly in 2001.

South Korea also achieved an economic miracle, rising from the rubble of the Korean War to enter the ranks of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD). It also built a vibrant democracy.

In 2007, South Korea’s former foreign minister, Ban Ki-moon, became the eighth secretary-general of the UN The endorsement of Ban for a second five-year term as UN chief this year further highlighted the special bond between South Korea and the UN, officials said.

With the aim of playing a more active role in promoting world peace and dealing with threats posed by North Korea, South Korea is seeking international support for its bid to become a nonpermanent member of the 15-country Security Council in 2013-2014.

Tensions on the Korean Peninsula remain high following North Korea’s two deadly military attacks on South Korea last year - the sinking of a South Korean warship (which Pyongyang denies) and the shelling of an island - that killed a total of 50 South Koreans.

As South Korea’s diplomacy in the UN is coming of age, the nation is accelerating its efforts to increase its aid for international development and help the UN tackle challenges such as climate change and world poverty.

When Ban visited South Korea last month, he called for his home country to play a greater role in global affairs.

“The international community is increasingly expecting the Republic of Korea to share its experience for success,” Ban said, referring to South Korea by its official name.

By 2015, South Korea will nearly triple its official development aid (ODA) to about $3 billion. The ODA is designed to help Asian, African and Latin American countries establish economic and industrial infrastructure.

Once a recipient of UN handouts, South Korea is annually contributing $53 million to the UN regular budget.

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