The world is bigger than two

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The world is bigger than two

Jung Gi-woong

The author is vice head of HK+ National Strategies Research Project Agency, Center for International Area Studies, Hankuk University of Foreign Studies.

We live in a world that urgently needs international cooperation more than ever. The global problems — including climate change, carbon neutrality, low birthrate, aging, food, energy, and other imminent problems — call for international cooperation. But unfortunately, global society’s effort is short of our expectations. Also, the role of the United Nations does not meet our needs, which raises the need for UN Security Council reform.

Since the end of the Cold War, we have witnessed the heydays of multilateralism and international cooperation. We believed that we could achieve a flat world through globalization, make transnational communication, and lead to a better world based on the goodwill of humankind and international cooperation. Unfortunately, we have again brought geopolitics, nationalism and unilateralism based on national interests over the past.

Against this backdrop, just before the Chuseok holiday, the Directorate of Communications under the Presidency of the Republic of Türkiye held a meaningful meeting in Seoul titled “The United Nations Security Council Reform: A New Approach to Reconstructing the International Order.” Experts in international relations from Korea and Türkiye met to discuss the importance of international cooperation and the power of multilateralism.

Regarding the world’s power distribution now, we might agree with Türkiye’s motto, “The world is bigger than five.” To paraphrase the motto with his understanding of the current world, it could be “The world is bigger than two.” The two can be interpreted with two different meanings.

‘The first two’ means the world comprised of only two groups: powerful and vulnerable countries. For example, the world before the collapse of the Cold War was divided into two groups: strong and weak countries.

After the end of the Cold War, the middle group emerged — in other words, not powerful but not weak countries appeared who can check the unilateral initiatives of strong countries regarding the global order. Korea and Türkiye might be categorized as middle countries. As all of us remember, their efforts to make their voices heard worldwide led to the creation of Mikta (Mexico, Indonesia, Korea, Turkey and Australia).

‘The second two’ refers to America and China, who believe they are making the rules of the world. The G2 competes not only for global hegemony but also presses other countries to take their side. Most of us would not welcome this choice.

That is why we must consider the need for UN Security Council reform and multilateralism. Nobody wants the world governed by a few powerful countries or just by the two.

No one would deny the merit of multilateralism. But the current Security Council system goes directly against multilateral cooperation. Only the privileged enjoy the privileges. Why only the Big 5? Isn’t it possible for other countries to join? Did they forget how the G20 was born?

The G2 or G5 could be acknowledging the need for multilateral cooperation. But the problem is that they use the word ‘multilateralism’ in their own way. When the U.S. says multilateralism, it means collaboration among countries that agree with the U.S. intention and share U.S. values. When China says multilateralism, it means a relatively loose coalition of countries that do not abide by strict rules so long as China is just a member of the multilateral group. But as soon as it becomes a group leader, it presses other countries to stand by it. Put it simply, the G2 wants to control the global order as they want. How can we solve this dilemma and make the world more cooperative? How can we make the voices of small and middle countries heard in the process of global rule setting?

The UN Security Council reform can be the starting point. Simple change is not enough. What we need is a drastic transformation of the system through fundamental reform. The process of reform should be based on universal values. Appreciation of human rights, respecting and caring for the weak, and helping those in danger belong to the universal value category.

The power of culture can be emphasized in this shift. Cultural power, or soft power, have sometimes been used as an instrument to get support from other countries. But unilateral sending of foreign culture always meets unexpected backlashes. We must use culture discreetly so that it can serve as a catalyst to widen our exchanges. We must remember that we all are under the big umbrella of global civilization.

Korea has never been a hegemonic power in its long history. Though the country maintained a unified government for a long time, it has been invaded over 900 times. Even today, Korea is pressed to take side with G2.

Considering its population, economic size and technological level, it is not easy to call Korea a weak country now. Shortly after the end of the Korean War, the country was weak. But Korea has made strides over the past decades. Despite its remarkable growth, however, the country’s presence is not felt strong due to its geopolitical location in Northeast Asia. But that cannot hinder the Korean people’s will to cooperate and love peace.

Even though Korea experienced incessant foreign invasions, Koreans have never invaded other countries. The founding principle of the peace-loving country is Hong-ik-in-gan, which means “Give benefits widely to humankind.” The spirit borders on humanitarianism. Another founding principle of the country is Gyeong-cheon-ae-in, which means “Respect heaven and love people.” The beginning of the UN Security Council reform should be based on the love of people and humanitarianism. By doing so, we can create a world where all members cooperate to make a better world. The world is bigger than two.
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