South Korea hopes to win UN Security Council seat

At a vote in the General Assembly on Tuesday, South Korea hopes to win one of the vacancies on the UN Security Council (UNSC).

Seoul would have the chance to prioritize matters that are important to South Korea if one of the 10 non-permanent seats is successfully campaigned for.

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However, the outcome is not a given because China, North Korea, and Russia are likely to reject South Korea’s application in an effort to achieve their own geopolitical objectives.

Starting in 2024, two-year terms are possible for five of the ten non-permanent seats. Guyana is the only contender from Latin America, while Algeria and Sierra Leone are likely to win the two seats designated for Africa. Slovenia and Belarus will compete for the one seat designated for Eastern Europe.

Chinese and Russian opposition With Russia supporting its close ally Belarus in that competition, it will be closely observed.

Additionally, China and North Korea are likely to support Belarus as they are allied with Russia. Expect pressure to mount on other nations that have deep political, security, and economic ties to Moscow and Beijing to back Minsk. Japan’s two-year term will end in 2024, and in order to give more countries in the region a bigger voice in the Security Council, it has committed not to run for one of the rotating seats for at least ten years.

Despite being the only contender for the Asia-Pacific, Seoul still needs the support of two-thirds of the 193 member states. President Yoon Suk Yeol, who has been lagging in the polls, would be happy to win the seat since it would be a diplomatic victory.

A seat on the UN Human Rights Council would help South Korea recover from the disappointment of losing its seat there in October of last year. This was a setback given that Vietnam was elected to the council despite being a one-party state with a history of repressing civil and political rights.

“Failing to retain that seat was a serious diplomatic mistake that was in part due to the transition to the new government here in Seoul, so joining the Security Council is seen as a way of returning” to the international spotlight, said Park Jung-won, a professor of international law at Dankook University.

“Symbolically, a seat will be very important, but it will give South Korea a chance to show that it can play a constructive role on the global stage,” he told DW. For Seoul, key issues that it hopes to obtain greater international support for include the threats posed by an increasingly aggressive North Korea, which is clearly making advances in its nuclear weapons programme and the development of long-range ballistic missiles.

‘Challenge’ of winning sufficient support Key to that aim will be winning the support of Russia and China, Park said, although he admits that will be “challenging” given South Korea’s support for the international coalition that has lined up behind Kyiv since Russia invaded Ukraine.

Seoul is unlikely to receive any assistance from Moscow if it sticks to its stance because Moscow and Beijing both have veto power in the Security Council.

Those same countries pose the biggest threat to South Korea even obtaining one of the rotating seats on the council, Park stressed.

“I expect they will express their opposition and call on their allies to do the same, but do they have sufficient votes to block South Korea? It is not clear and it is a question of geopolitics but yes, it is possible they could block the bid.” Hyobin Lee, an adjunct professor of politics and ethics at Chungnam National University, said Seoul has been working hard to build its international reputation and support for its Security Council bid. “Korea has made efforts to become a non-permanent member of the UNSC by engaging with various regional and international organisations,” she said.

“These endeavours have included constructive dialogue and meetings with representatives from the African Union, leaders of Pacific island states, the president of Timor-Leste, representatives from Latin American countries and other significant diplomatic engagements.”

The campaign for a seat holds “exceptional significance” for South Korea, she added. Asia situation ‘fraught’ “The situation in Northeast Asia is increasingly becoming fraught with conflicts, as South Korea finds itself surrounded by North Korea, Russia, China and Japan,” Lee said.

“The relationships among these countries are complex and do not bode well for Korean national security. “The relationship between Russia and South Korea has deteriorated due to the Russia-Ukraine war, while China is emerging as a prominent player and often opposes the US,” she underlined.

“North Korea’s behaviour has reached an unprecedented low. “Given these circumstances, securing a rotating seat on the UNSC would enhance South Korea’s diplomatic influence.”

She acknowledged that even it would not be a solution to all of Seoul’s geopolitical problems. Lee worries that it won’t have much of an impact, despite the fact that Yoon and his government would benefit given their sagging popularity ratings. “Even if South Korea becomes a non-permanent member of the UNSC, it is unlikely to bring about significant changes in terms of its power status in international politics,” she proposed. Its function would be more symbolic, in contrast.

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Mridha Shihab Mahmud is a writer, content editor and photojournalist. He works as a staff reporter at News Hour. He is also involved in humanitarian works through a trust called Safety Assistance For Emergencies (SAFE). Mridha also works as film director. His passion is photography. He is the chief respondent person in Mymensingh Film & Photography Society. Besides professional attachment, he loves graphics designing, painting, digital art and social networking.
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