Republic of Korea

H.E. Mr. Choi Sung-hong
Minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade

13 September 2002, New York

Mr. President,
Mr. Secretary-General,
Distinguished Delegates,

I would like to join previous speakers in extending my heartfelt congratulations to the Swiss Confederation and East Timor on their admission to the United Nations.

The tragic events of September 11 last year awakened the international community to the gravity of a new menace to world peace and security. When the lighting of eternal flame during the commemorative service in the Battery Park was mirrored by the outpouring of sympathy around the globe, the world has become one again in reaching out to those who lost loved ones on that fateful day.

The global community has responded promptly and decisively to the scourge of terrorism. Over the past year, international cooperation has been strengthened in our relentless campaign against terrorism. The Security Council, in particular, has played a commendable role in this process through its Counter-Terrorism Committee.

The Republic of Korea has been an active member of the international coalition against terrorism. We have dispatched a military medical unit and provided other forms of support to help the war efforts, while strengthening domestic mechanisms to deter and suppress terrorist activities. Furthermore, we are now working with other countries to contribute to the rehabilitation of Afghanistan.

As we conduct our resolute fight against terrorism, we should also consider that deprivation, lack of good governance and marginalization from the process of globalization can serve as a breeding ground     for fanatics who can go so far as to take their own lives just to harm others. The international community,   therefore, should take a holistic approach, while bearing in mind at all times that terrorism cannot be justified by any cause and under any circumstances whatsoever.

Mr. President,

September 11 has also brought home to the world the appalling dangers of weapons of mass destruction (WMD) falling into wrong hands. Moreover, the prevailing international reality underscores the urgent need to make progress in disarmament and nonproliferation of weapons of mass destruction.

It is essential that we accomplish the universality of nonproliferation regimes, including the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT), Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC) and Biological Weapons Convention (BWC), while ensuring full compliance by all states parties to such regimes. We also hope that a total ban on nuclear testing and fissile material production will be achieved through an early entry into force of the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT) and an expeditious conclusion of the Fissile Material Cut-Off Treaty (FMCT). In this regard, I would like to underline the Republic of Korea's full commitment to strengthening multilateral collaboration to promote the cause of disarmament and nonproliferation.

Mr. President,

Since its inception, the United Nations has played key roles in securing peace and stability in the troubled corners of the world. Indeed, the UN's work in conflict prevention, Peace making, peace-keeping and peace-building has expanded in recent years.

East Timor is the latest success for which the United Nations deserves praise. As a member state committed to the coalition of the willing, the Republic of Korea has actively taken part in the UN's efforts in East Timor and other parts of the world. Moreover, our overall financial contribution to UN peace-keeping operations has grown approximately tenfold over the last three years. The Republic of Korea intends to strengthen its involvement in these crucial UN activities.

Mr. President,

The Korean Peninsula is still one of the world's most volatile and heavily armed areas. Nevertheless, President Kim Dae-jung's unwavering pursuit of the engagement policy is fundamentally reshaping inter-Korean relations.

The engagement policy is, in essence, a strategy for peace through engagement designed to cope with the multiple challenges inherent in inter-Korean relations on the road to eventual Unification. As such, it aims at fostering inter-Korean Reconciliation, promoting cooperation and exchanges, reducing tension, and building durable peace on the peninsula.

The highlight of the engagement policy was the holding of the historic summit between South and North Korea in June 2000. The summit set in motion an inter-Korean peace process. After ups and downs along the way, the peace process is finally back on track and moving forward again.

Inter-Korean meetings at various levels have resumed, as have exchanges in all areas. In fact, on this very day at Mount Kumgang in North Korea, the fifth round of reunions between separated family members is taking place.

Next week, South and North Korea will hold the long-anticipated ground-breaking ceremonies marking the start of the construction work for the reconnecting of railways and roads that have remained severed for five decades. Since these projects literally involve a breakthrough in the heavily fortified border and require a certain level of military-to-military cooperation, they will hold not only great practical benefit but also tremendous symbolic significance. As we look ahead to the completion of the trans-Korean railways, this clearly promises to have far-reaching inter-regional implications for accomplishing the vision of Iron Silk Road, a rail link joining Asia and Europe.

The overall progress report to date amply demonstrates that the engagement policy works. By way of emphasizing the importance of peace, Benjamin Franklin once said that there has never been a good war nor a bad peace. No one can deny that the Korean people on both sides of the peninsula today enjoy a stronger peace than ever, and that the risk of war is all time low since the end of the Korean War. However, it is not yet time to be complacent, as we have still a long way to go if the peace process is to prove irreversible and fully sustainable.

One important challenge to the peace process relates to the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction. We continue to believe that the 1994 Geneva Agreed Framework holds the best hope for removing concerns over nuclear proliferation from the Korean Peninsula. However, the Agreed Framework has reached a critical juncture. As the light water reactor (LWR) project progresses, it is now essential that the full cooperation with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) begin without further delay for the implementation of safeguards requirements of the Agreed Framework.

Mr. President,

The path to world peace runs through more equitable economic and social development. In this regard, we attach great importance to the United Nations' agenda for development and, in particular, the implementation of the United Nations Millennium Declaration.

The International Conference on Financing for Development held in Monterrey in March of this year was a success, inter alia, in enhancing shared awareness of the primary responsibility of developing countries themselves as well as the need for a more substantial input from developed economies. The Political Declaration and Plan of Implementation adopted at the recent World Summit on Sustainable Development (WSSD) are of great significance as they have set out a time-bound plan of action for humanity's quest to preserve the planet for posterity.

The unprecedented advances in information and communication technologies (ICT) are also widening the gap between the forerunners and those who lag behind. We hope that the United Nations and other relevant international organizations will become more proactive in bridging the digital divide between developed and developing nations.

Mr. President,

The last century has witnessed the steady advance and triumph of democracy and human rights as universal values around the globe. As it has been so eloquently put, liberty, when it begins to take root, is, indeed, a plant of rapid growth. The human rights situation in one country is no longer an exclusively domestic affair. The issue of human rights has become a priority agenda item for the international community. During the last session of the General Assembly, special attention has been paid to the human rights of such vulnerable groups as children and the elderly. We sincerely hope that the pledges made at the 2nd World Assembly on Aging as well as the Special Session on Children will be translated into concrete action.

The Republic of Korea has a firm commitment to international cooperation for the promotion of democracy and human rights. We plan to host the Second Ministerial Conference of the Community of Democracies in Seoul in November of this year. We are working with other Convening Group countries to ensure that this proves to be a momentous occasion in the protection, consolidation and advancement of  democracy the world over.

We also welcome renewed commitment of the international community to combating growing problems of horrific transnational crimes such as trafficking in persons.

Mr. President,

Over the past half century, the United Nations has made outstanding contributions to the causes of great importance to the humankind. However, this world body cannot possibly meet all expectations.

Given the limited means and resources available to it, the United Nations should focus on areas in which it can excel, making the best use of its comprehensive mandate and the universality of its membership. In this regard, the Republic of Korea strongly supports the ongoing reforms that Secretary-General Kofi Annan has been pursuing with a view to achieving a more effective and efficient United Nations. My delegation also pays tribute to Dr. Han Seung-soo, President of the 56th session, for his devotion to the revitalization of the General Assembly.

As for Security Council reform, we support the expansion of non-permanent members so as to accord those member states, willing and able to contribute to international peace and security, greater opportunities to serve in the Council.

In closing, Mr. President,

The United Nations is an embodiment of globalism and the epitome of multilateral cooperation. As such, the international community looks to the UN for guidance and effective action in the whole spectrum of areas under its mandate.

The Republic of Korea reaffirms its firm commitment to working in concert with other member states to make the United Nations more relevant, efficient, and thus better able to meet the global challenges ahead.

Thank you.