Ban Ki-moon urges Korea to look beyond its four biggest allies
“Korea should move away from diplomacy centered on the four major powers,” said Ban at the Culture and Strategies Forum for the Korean Peninsula and the North at the Westin Josun Seoul on Wednesday, alluding to the U.S., China, Japan, and Russia. “It must secure political and economic interests through mutually beneficial cooperation with countries in the northern region.”
The forum, hosted by the Humanities Korea Plus National Strategies Research Project Agency of the Center for International Area Studies at Hankuk University of Foreign Studies (HUFS), with World Taekwondo and the JoongAng Ilbo, was joined by experts and representatives of Azerbaijan, Georgia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyz Republic, Tajikistan, Turkey and Uzbekistan.
The Yoon Suk-yeol administration inaugurated earlier this month has been emphasizing the alliance with the United States as the core of its foreign policy overtures, but had also put forward a plan to deepen diplomatic ties beyond its closest allies, including with its partners in Central Asia.
The previous Moon Jae-in administration had announced a pivot to the region, dubbing it the New Northern Policy.
“Russia is a major power across the Eurasian continent and is a key cooperation partner for Korea's northern policy, but it invaded the sovereign state of Ukraine, violated the UN Charter, and retreated the history of human civilization,” Ban said.
“As the conflicts and confrontations between the United States and Russia and the United States and China intensify, the recovery of multilateralism and international cooperation have become more important,” he added. “It is important to reciprocally link political and economic interests between South Korea and the northern region in order to respond to issues in climate change and supply chain.”
The forum comes at a time when Korea and many of its partners in Central Asia including Azerbaijan, Georgia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyz Republic, Tajikistan, and Uzbekistan celebrate 30 years of diplomatic ties. They all established diplomatic ties with Korea in 1992, when the Roh Tae-woo administration put forward its policy of pivot to its northern partners.
“The northern policy, which began with President Park Chung Hee's June 23 Declaration and grew with President Roh Tae-woo's July 7 Declaration, played a decisive role in expanding Korean diplomacy across the world,” said HUFS President Park Jeong-woon in opening the forum.
“After the Cold War barrier came down and the road to the northern region opened, South Korea maintained a reciprocal relationship with the region,” said Kang Jun-Young, head of Humanities Korea Plus National Strategies Research Project Agency at the university. “I believe the new government will also expand this cooperation.”
Ambassadors and diplomats at the forum highlighted growing interest for cooperation with Korea across several sectors including renewable energy and supply chain, as well as on education and culture.
Ramzi Teymurov, ambassador of Azerbaijan to Korea called for closer cooperation with Korea on the establishment of carbon neutral zones, “using green and renewable energy resources, construction of smart cities and smart villages,” as well as the creation of smart farming facilities and logistics zones.
Otar Berdzenishvili, ambassador of Georgia, stressed the increase in bilateral exchanges and acknowledged culture, heritage, history, tourism and investment opportunities, adding that Georgia is ready “to deepen our cooperation with the new administration,” to mark “another successful chapter.”
Bakyt Dyussenbayev, ambassador of Kazakhstan, recalled his country’s experiences in giving up the “fourth largest nuclear arsenal in the world” after its independence in 1991, expressing his hopes that Kazakhstan’s experience can “also be a good example for the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula.”
Kyrgyz Republic Ambassador Aida Ismailova highlighted the “high level of education” in Korea and her government’s interest in working with Korea in the education sector, including through expansions of student exchange programs.
Tajikistan’s Ambassador Yusuf Sharifzoda in a written statement to the forum recalled the successful visits of National Assembly Speaker Park Byeong-seug and then-Foreign Minister Chung Eui-yong to Tajikistan last year, calling for expansion in cooperation on science, technology and culture.
Zokir Saidov, deputy head of mission at the Uzbekistan Embassy, reiterated his government’s support for Korea’s bid for its third non-permanent membership in the UN Security Council for 2024-25, adding that the Uzbek government “has proposed to the Korean government various ways of cooperation, such as using the Economic Cooperation Promotion Fund to create an industrial complex in Tashkent, and to build a Koryoin History Museum.”
Koryoin are descendants of Koreans living in Central Asia and former Soviet Union states.
Ersin Ercin, ambassador of Turkey, spoke of “a shared history” between the people of Turkey and Korea that may date back to as early as the 5th century when they are estimated to have lived in the same region in Asia, as well as the Turkish participation in the 1950-53 Korean War. He said Turkey looks forward to a future of solidarity in the regions of Central Asia and Eurasia, which one day “would hopefully also be joined by North Korea” in peace.