Ban urges Republic of Korea to take on greater global responsibilities

Ban urges Republic of Korea to take on greater global responsibilities

Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon (right) with Yu Myung-hwan, Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade of the Republic of Korea
Meeting leaders and addressing the National Assembly of his native Republic of Korea today, United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon called on the East Asian nation to shoulder increased responsibilities to help tackle global challenges.

“To meet the great challenges facing our world, we need great nations,” Mr. Ban told the Assembly in Seoul. “By showing leadership Korea can prove it is a great nation, and it will be recognized as such on the international stage. It is too successful, too creative and too crucial within the international community to sit on the sidelines.”

He noted that the Republic of Korea ranked the lowest among the wealth member countries of the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD).

“This is not befitting a great country like Korea,” he said. “We must do more, much more, commensurate with our national economic and political maturity and development.”

Mr. Ban, who arrived in Seoul yesterday on his first official visit since taking on the position of Secretary-General early last year, stressed that the nation had received international help during the Korean War and in the early years of its industrialization process.

“Countries must design their own plans and mobilize their own resources, but they cannot do this alone,” he told the Assembly. “Just as the Republic of Korea was helped by other countries during the Korean War during our industrialization development process, so too must we now must help others who need our help.”

In both his speech to the National Assembly and today's talks with President Lee Myung-bak, Prime Minister Han Seung-soo, Foreign Minister Yu Myung-hwan, Mr. Ban said that since the country had undergone a transformation, it was time to do more to help others in need by pursuing three avenues in particular: stepping up aid, augmenting support for peacekeeping operations worldwide and setting an example in the fight against climate change.

“The Republic of Korea has one of the most capable militaries on the planet. Korea must do more with it,” he said to the Assembly. “Deploying Korean peacekeepers in other parts of the world will not only help people in need and provide the UN with needed muscle, it will also benefit Korea by further developing the Korean military's experience in important areas, as well as enhancing Korea's international profile.”

The Secretary-General also said that due to the country's record of growth due partly to advances in less energy-intensive industries, it is well-placed to lead efforts to address climate change, one of his top priorities since taking office last January.

“Our experience and know-how can prove invaluable to other developing countries who seek a low-carbon path to economic development,” Mr. Ban said. “The Republic of Korea can also help bridge the climate divide between developing countries and the highly industrialized world.”

The Secretary-General arrived in the Republic of Korea yesterday, where he was welcomed home with a 21-gun salute and marching band, from China, the second stop on a three-nation tour that also took him to Japan.

In a speech yesterday to students and faculty at his alma mater Seoul National University – which bestowed an honorary doctorate on him yesterday – Mr. Ban exhorted his fellow countrymen to play a larger role in addressing pressing global challenges such as climate change, rising food and energy prices and terrorism.

He will remain in the Republic of Korea until Monday, when he will return to Japan to attend the Group of Eight (G-8) summit of industrialized nations in the northern island of Hokkaido.