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U.N. chief urges Korea to play bigger global role

United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon on Tuesday called on South Korea to play a bigger role in international affairs as he made his first official visit to the country after reelection in June to a second five-year term as the U.N. chief.

He arrived in Seoul from Japan as part of a two-nation tour.

“This year marks the 20th anniversary of the Republic of Korea’s formal admission to the U.N.,” Ban told reporters upon his arrival at Gimpo International Airport in Seoul, referring to South Korea by its official name.

“I think my reelection is meaningful at a time when relations between the Republic of Korea and the U.N. have such a symbolic importance,” Ban said. 
United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-mun smiles as he arrives with his wife at Gimpo International Airport on Tuesday. (Yonhap News)
United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-mun smiles as he arrives with his wife at Gimpo International Airport on Tuesday. (Yonhap News)

South Korea became a full U.N. member in 1991 with the right to vote. Before then, it had an observer status in the U.N. General Assembly and was only allowed to attend meetings.

“During my visit, I plan to lay out priorities for my next term and ask the Republic of Korea to pay more attention and play a greater role in global affairs,” he said.

Ban is scheduled to meet President Lee Myung-bak, National Assembly Speaker Park Hee-tae and Foreign Minister Kim Sung-hwan during his six-day visit through Sunday, his fourth trip to Korea since taking office as U.N. Secretary General in 2007.

Ban said that he was proud of South Korea, which has become an economically affluent and politically vibrant democracy after rising from the ashes of the 1950-53 Korean War.

“The international community is increasingly expecting the Republic of Korea to share its experience of success,” said Ban, who became U.N. chief in 2007.

On Wednesday, Ban will address an academic forum named U.N. Academic Impact, stop by an international photo exhibit by the Yonhap news agency before visiting the National Assembly. Ban is also slated to meet with President Lee Wednesday evening.

On Thursday, the U.N. chief will give a lecture at an event hosted by the Korea Chamber of Commerce and Industry, attend a debate session with the Korea Broadcasting Journalists Club and then the opening of a U.N. youth conference in Incheon. Ban will offer a special lecture to middle, high school and university students in Incheon.

Ban is slated to hold a meeting with the staff of U.N. organizations in Korea later Thursday before attending a welcome dinner hosted by the Mayor of Incheon.

Ban will meet with Foreign Minister Kim and other ministry officials on Friday.

On Sunday, he plans to visit his hometown of Eumseong in North Chungcheong Province, visit Chungju High School in Chungju and attend a welcome luncheon hosted by the provincial government of North Chungcheong before heading back to New York later in the day.

By Kim So-hyun (sophie@heraldcorp.com)
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