Honor the new statusSouth Korea, along with four other countries, was elected to a two-year term on the United Nations Security Council, beginning next year. The last time South Korea filled the seat on the 15-member council was from 1996 to 1997.
A seat on the highest decision-making body carries heavy diplomatic significance. It strengthens the country’s say on the international stage and allows the government to actively participate in and help resolve global security issues.
Ten rotating members do not possess legally binding veto power on Security Council resolutions like the permanent members - China, France, the United Kingdom, Russia and the United States. Yet they are bestowed with equal authority to approve and reject decisions.
The Security Council is the only global body that can authorize a use of arms and impose financial and other legally binding sanctions. When more than nine of the 15 council members, including the P-5, vote on a resolution, all 195 United Nations members must follow the action. It is why the competition is heavy in vying for the rotating seat allocated by continent.
South Korea’s global status is completely different today from 16 years ago when it first earned membership on the nonpermanent council. Its role had been limited then as an emerging developing member that has been part of the UN family for just five years. But now it is relied upon as a mid-level nation that can act as a bridge between developing and developed nations. The country has hosted the Group of 20 Summit, nuclear summit talks and produced a UN secretary general. The country also turned into a donor country from a one-time aid recipient. It is well qualified to serve actively on the Security Council.
Moreover, the country won a seat on the board at a pivotal time when most major nations are experiencing leadership changes and tensions between the U.S. and China are rising. South Korea is also positioned to take the initiative and respond quickly against security threats like a North Korean military attack. Its Security Council membership likely will serve as a silent deterrent against North Korea’s belligerence.
It is up to the government to use the momentum and opportunity to broaden its diplomatic stretch and capability. The country and its people also should live up to their new status by setting a good example by respecting international norms and values as well as demonstrating responsibility and resolute conviction on global and regional issues.