UNSC seat, history row with Japan top agenda for Seoul in U.N. session

By 박한나
  • Published : Sept 17, 2012 - 09:27
  • Updated : Sept 17, 2012 - 09:27
Heading into this year's U.N. General Assembly meeting, South Korea has two major goals _ winning a seat in the Security Council and making the case for its firm stance in history disputes with Japan.

The 67th session of the 193-member U.N. General Assembly will open on Tuesday in New York for discussions on a range of international issues, including renewed anti-American protests in the Islamic world, violence in Syria and Iran's nuclear ambitions.

South Korea plans to send Foreign Minister Kim Sung-hwan as its chief delegate, and North Korea is expected to be represented by Vice Foreign Minister Pak Gil-yon.

"During the upcoming session, we will place a top priority on securing a membership of the U.N. Security Council (for 2013-2014)," a South Korean diplomat in the U.N. said on the condition of anonymity.

South Korea took a non-permanent seat on the council from 1996-1997.

South Korea is competing with Cambodia and Bhutan for one remaining Asian slot. South Korean officials are optimistic, with the election slated for Oct. 18.

The level of Seoul's attack on Tokyo over its past wrongdoings in the U.N.'s main deliberative and policymaking session also draws keen attention.

South Korea is expected to raise the issue of Korean women forced to serve as sex slaves for Japanese troops during the World War II, when its foreign minister delivers a formal speech on Sept. 28.

Koreans view the forced sex slavery, pertinent to universal human rights, as a symbol of Japan's brutal colonization of Korea from 1910-45 and they accuse Japan of remaining reluctant to atone for its past atrocities.

Victimized women are euphemistically called "comfort women."

"Exact wordings in Minister Kim's speech have not been fixed yet," the diplomat said.

 Officials in Seoul said the minister may also touch on Dokdo, a set of volcanic outcroppings in the East Sea. Dokdo belongs to Seoul but Tokyo claims its sovereignty.

 The Lee Myung-bak administration faces a dilemma between domestic pressure and an effort by the United States to reduce tensions in Northeast Asia.

A majority of South Koreans support a surprise trip by their president to Dokdo in August, although it has led to sharp diplomatic stand-offs with Japan. Lee is apparently concerned about his popularity that may affect the results of presidential polls in December. Lee is banned from running for re-election under the Constitution, but his ruling party hopes to retain power.

In separate meetings with the leaders of South Korea and Japan in Russia earlier this month, the U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton urged both sides to "lower the temperature and work together in a concerted way to have a calm and restrained approach."

The U.S. State Department refused to comment on the possibility that South Korea will take issue with its history disputes with Japan during the U.N. session.

"I can't speculate on what remains a hypothetical at this point," a department official told Yonhap News Agency. (Yonhap News)