SEOUL – While the United Nations celebrates its 70th anniversary in 2015, Koreans will lament 70 years of national division. Considering all of the challenges and opportunities that the divided peninsula faces – and will continue to confront in the coming years – unification remains an important goal that we must continue to pursue.
Founded formally in 1948 under UN auspices, the then-fledgling Republic of Korea immediately became engulfed in Cold War power politics, which hampered its efforts to join the UN – a goal not achieved until 1991. Since then, however, the Republic has more than made up for its late arrival. It is playing an active role in the UN – the Security Council, the Economic and Social Council, and the Human Rights Council – and it is participating in numerous initiatives related to peacekeeping, development cooperation, climate change, non-proliferation, and human rights.
During this time, the international community has also dramatically changed. Globalization and technological transformation have deepened interdependence, and yet insecurity, inequality, injustice, and intolerance remain undiminished worldwide. Two decades after the Rwandan genocide, we continue to bear witness to human cruelty and horror – in Syria, South Sudan, and the Central African Republic, for example. Meanwhile, a billion or so of the world’s poorest people, including women and children, are barely surviving.
Northeast Asia has its share of trouble. A rising China, a resurgent Japan, an assertive Russia, and an anachronistic North Korea have added new complexities and uncertainties to the region. The latter’s pursuit of nuclear arms is particularly worrying. On its part, the United States is now “rebalancing” toward Asia.