THE REPUBLIC OF
H.E. Mr. Lee Han-dong
Prime Minister of the Republic of Korea
the 56th Session
of the United Nations General Assembly
10 November 2001 New York
Mr. President, Mr. Secretary-General, distinguished delegates,
Before all else, on behalf of the government and people of the Republic of Korea, I would like to convey our deepest condolences and consolation to the bereaved families and friends of those who lost their lives in the horrendous terrorist attacks of September 11. This unprecedented criminal act has posed a grave threat to international peace and security, as well as a serious challenge to human dignity. Such acts of terrorism constitute a crime against humanity and civilization that cannot be justified by any cause.
To forestall the recurrence of such incidents and to eradicate international terrorism, comprehensive and common efforts at the international level are urgently called for. The United Nations is expected to play an important role in these efforts. Immediately after the terrorist attacks, the Security Council and the General Assembly adopted resolutions denouncing terrorism and calling for measures for its elimination. This prompt action, as well as the ensuing debates at the UN, attest to the major role to be played by the Organization in the anti-terrorism effort.
The government of the Republic of Korea will continue to actively take part in the measures taken by the United Nations, including the implementation of Security Council resolution 1373, and will join the effort to free the international community from the scourge of terrorism. At the same time, we will spare no effort in rendering humanitarian assistance to the refugees who have been displaced as a result of the "war against terrorism."
In preparing to co-host the 2002 Korea/Japan FIFA World Cup, we will do our utmost to ensure that the event is held in a secure atmosphere, free from the threat of terrorism.
I stand here with much reminiscence. The Republic of Korea, once one of the major recipients of UN assistance, is now an active contributor to the efforts to realize the ideals and goals of this august body. It is also the country whose Foreign Minister has the honor of presiding over the first session of the UN General Assembly in the new century.
The birth of the Republic and its development thereafter owe a great deal to UN assistance. Indeed, the government of the Republic of Korea was born out of the UN-supervised elections held pursuant to the UN resolution calling for an independent government in Korea. During the Korean War in the early 50s, we were able to defend our country, thanks to the participation and noble sacrifice of the UN forces.
After the war, as the Korean people strove to overcome the devastation of the war and rebuild the country, and further to achieve economic development and emerge as a democracy upholding human rights, we found enormous strength and encouragement in the support and cooperation rendered by the United Nations.
The Korean people will never forget this. We will redouble our efforts to do our share for the cause of global peace and prosperity enshrined in the UN Charter.
Looking back upon the Republic of Korea’s arduous and eventful process of development over the past half century, we see that it is -an exemplary case of all the good that can be achieved when the international community works closely with a people determined to overcome poverty and legacies of conflict to build a better future for themselves.
Ten years have passed since the simultaneous admission of the Republic of Korea and the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea to the United Nations. In the intervening decade, particularly during the recent years, much progress has been made in inter-Korean relations. Taking this opportunity, I would like to briefly touch upon the peace process unfolding on the Korean peninsula, an effort for which we seek your continuing support.
The first Inter-Korean Summit, held in June of last year, was truly a historic event not only for peace on the Korean peninsula, but also in East Asia and indeed the world. Before the Summit, the Korean peninsula had remained a lone island where the Cold War maintained its foothold. The Summit initiated the process of melting away that foothold, the icy wall of hostility and confrontation that had thickened between South and North Korea over the past half century. The whole world welcomed the breakthrough, expressing high hopes for peace on the Korean peninsula, as exemplified here by the joint statement of the co-chairs of the Millennium Summit and the resolution of the General Assembly.
Since then, positive changes have taken place on the Korean peninsula. There have been three rounds of reunions by members of separated families. At the opening of the Sydney Olympic Games, the world was moved to see the South and North Korean athletes march in together. The project to relink a railway and road between the two Koreas is now under way. And the first South-North defense ministers meeting was held, with a view to reducing tension and furthering peace.
Meanwhile, North Korea has steadily expanded its diplomatic horizon, establishing diplomatic ties with most EU countries and many others. Such endeavors have been strongly welcomed and supported by the Republic of Korea, which has striven to shore up global support for the Korean peace process.
The goal of our sunshine policy of promoting engagement between South and North Korea is for the two sides to live together in peace and cooperation, in preparation for peaceful unification. The engagement policy is actively supported by the whole world, not to mention the Korean people and key neighbors surrounding the Korean peninsula. North Korea, too, embraced the spirit of peace, reconciliation and cooperation in the InterKorean Summit’s Joint Declaration of June 15, 2000.
The government of the Republic of Korea will continue to do its utmost so that a lasting peace may take root on the Korean peninsula and global peace may be strengthened. We sincerely thank the United Nations and the leaders of the world for the encouragement they have given us so far. We shall continue to count on their steadfast support and cooperation.
The work required of the United Nations in the 21 st century is no less than daunting. Numerous tasks lie ahead of us, such as fostering international peace and security, promoting the,common prosperity of the global village, advancing democracy and human rights, eradicating poverty, combating transnational crime, protecting the environment and enhancing human wellbeing.
Rising to these challenges, world leaders gathered last year at the Millennium Summit to reconfirm their responsibilities and chart a new course for the international community in the 21th century. The Millennium Declaration aims at materializing "a new United Nations" that can effectively meet the many challenges faced by the international community. It should be appreciated that the declaration sets concrete policy goals to free humanity from fear and poverty.
Now the task before all members of the United Nations is to muster the best of their wisdom and strength in devising and implementing measures to fulfill the commitments outlined in the Millennium Declaration. The Republic of Korea will actively cooperate with all other members so that these commitments may be faithfully carried out.
With the end of the Cold War and the passing of the 20th century, "reconciliation and cooperation" has come to define the tenor of the evolving global order. .
However, genuine world peace has yet to be obtained. In many corners of the globe, the threat of terrorism looms large, and conflicts and confrontations caused by ethnic, religious and economic reasons still persist. Far worse, the greatest victims are often the most vulnerable of people, such as children, women and ethnic minorities.
In this regard, I fully support the UN’s efforts to strengthen its capability to prevent and resolve conflicts and deal with their aftermath. The conflict prevention and peacekeeping function of the United Nations is essential for global peace, and the role of the UN in post-conflict peace-building should also be expanded.
Humanity in the 21 st century is at the mercy of rapid and sweeping changes that are unprecedented in the history of human civilizations. At the core of the vortex lie the information technology revolution and globalization.
If we fail to meet the challenges posed by these trends, the promises for peace and prosperity in the 21 st century will not be fulfilled. Member States of the United Nations must gather their collective wisdom and will, so that all members of the international community can enjoy the benefits of globalization and the revolutionary advances in information and communication technology.
Against this backdrop, President Kim Dae Jung proposed to build a "TransEurasia Information Network" at the ASEM (Asia-Europe Meeting) Summit last year, with a view to galvanizing information exchange and cooperation between Asia and Europe at an unprecedented level.
To narrow the information gap between nations, international assistance is required, particularly in building the information infrastructures and human resources of developing countries. In this regard, greater cooperation and attention from the developed countries is essential.
Furthermore, the effective management of the global economy and poverty eradication in the underdeveloped countries should be placed high on the agenda of global consultations. The stability and transparency of global financial markets should be enhanced by reinforcing the functions of the EMT, the IBRD, and other international financial organizations. The next round of WTO talks should be launched as soon as possible in order to strengthen free trade and the multilateral trading system.
In this regard, I hope the International Conference on Financing for Development, to be held in March of next year, will succeed in devising a comprehensive plan to deal with issues related to poverty and development. We have to bear in mind the lesson drawn from history that fostering the middle-class through poverty eradication can lay a solid foundation for democracy. As far as the environment is concerned, international efforts to protect "Mother Nature" should be carried out in a more effective and substantial manner.
In some advanced countries, the development of bio-technology has reached such astonishing levels as to arouse fear of infringing upon the realm of God. While acknowledging the positive role such scientific advancements may have in prolonging human life and improving the quality of life, we need to prevent them from being misused and becoming an affront to human dignity.
Democracy and human rights are universal values that must continue to be sought and upheld in the 21 st century.
In recent decades, democracy and human rights have claimed many victories around the world. But they have also suffered setbacks. Human rights continue to be abused in many parts of the world, in the form of kidnapping and torture, illegal executions, discrimination and other violations. It is particularly distressing that large-scale and systematic violations of human rights persist in some regions under conflict. Such deplorable acts cannot be tolerated. I sincerely hope that the 2nd Conference of the Community of Democracies, to be held in Seoul in October of next year, will prove -to be a milestone in this regard.
Humanity places great expectations upon the United Nations to meet the challenges of the 21st century and make the most of the opportunities it brings. For this global body provides a unique forum for all the countries of the world to together seek solutions to common problems in the spirit of mutual respect and cooperation.
To rise to the task, the United Nations requires ongoing reform. Its financial and organizational foundations must be strengthened in accord with its expanding roles.
In particular, the reform of the Security Council, given its importance to all Member States, must be achieved through general agreement, with a view to making the Council more representative, democratic and efficient.
The United Nations must stand firmly at the center of the efforts to further spread and consolidate multilateralism around the world, based on the spirit of mutual understanding and compromise. Tolerance and dialogue must be upheld in international relations if we are to make the 21 st century an era of shared prosperity and peaceful coexistence among diverse civilizations.
The Republic of Korea will strive to contribute to the further development of the United Nations, in the spirit of repaying the generosity it has received from the international community.
Befitting the country’s growing capabilities, the Republic of Korea’s contribution to the UN budget is to increase significantly in the coming years, in accordance with the new scale of assessments adopted last year. Next year, it will become the 10th largest contributor to the regular budget of the UN. With troops now taking part in the UN’s peacekeeping missions in East Timor and three other places, the Republic of Korea will also continue to actively participate in the UN’s endeavors for peace and security.
Furthermore, we will share our experiences in economic development and democratization with our neighbors in the global village, and do what we can to bridge the gap between the developing and developed countries.
I am convinced that the United Nations, on the strength of the concerted efforts of all countries represented here, will continue to be a beacon of hope that lights the road ahead for humanity in the 21 st century.