South Korea at the U.N.: Possible Russia-North Korea Arms Deal a ‘Direct and Existential Threat’ to World Peace

Yoon Suk-yeol, South Korea's president, speaks during the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) in New York, US, on Wednesday, Sept. 20, 2023. Global leaders descend upon midtown Manhattan this week for speeches, meetings and receptions, an annual migration to the United Nations meant to tackle the world's biggest problems. (Jeenah …
Jeenah Moon/Bloomberg via Getty

President Yoon Suk-yeol of South Korea began his address to the United Nations General Assembly on Wednesday by expressing gratitude for the U.N. intervention that saved his country from “invasion by Communist totalitarian forces” seven decades ago.

“Thankfully, with the support of U.N. forces, the nation dramatically defended its freedom,” Yoon said.

“Over the past 70 years, Korea has risen from the ashes of war to blossom into liberal democracy and a market economy. Now Korea intends to responsibly contribute to the international community, with a goal to promote social progress, a better standard of life, and larger freedoms championed in the U.N. Charter,” he said.

Yoon said the war in Ukraine has “deepened the division in values and ideologies within the international community,” and exacerbated the already painful “economic repercussions from the [Wuhan coronavirus] pandemic.”

“In difficult times, it is the vulnerable who suffer more,” he said.

Yoon said “many countries around the world still lack the infrastructure for everyday living,” and advanced nations have a responsibility to “narrow the development divide.” He said his government was prepared to increase its development assistance, even as its budget is slashed in other areas to achieve austerity targets.

Yoon said it was especially important to support education programs in developing nations. “It is said that a year of education can increase income by ten percent, and this impact is more pronounced among low-income groups and women,” he asserted.

Yoon said the “climate crisis” was another internationally divisive issue.

“This past July, we experienced the hottest summer ever recorded on Earth,” he said, a contention promoted by some climate scientists and challenged by others. 

“On this boiling Earth, extreme weather events such as heat waves, torrential rains, and typhoons have become the norm. Climate change is causing geopolitical shifts in agriculture and fisheries, worsening the crises in countries vulnerable to food shortages,” he said.

Yoon said his government will increase developmental aid to “assist countries vulnerable to climate change in reducing their carbon emissions and accelerating their transition to clean energy.” 

“Korea will not only harness renewable energy, but will also extensively employ high-efficiency carbon-free energy, such as nuclear power and hydrogen, as a realistic measure to hasten our pursuit of carbon neutrality,” he pledged. 

“We also plan to share these energy sources with countries vulnerable to climate change, ensuring they too can benefit. To this end, Korea aims to pursue international joint research into carbon-free energy, and facilitate technological innovation and investment from the private sector,” he said.

Yoon said Korea also intends to “play a leading role in bridging the digital divide” by using its “strength in information and communications technologies.”

“The digital divide is a major cause of economic divide. Therefore, bridging the digital divide will be a positive attribute in resolving the challenges faced by the Global South,” he said, using a term for developing nations. 

Yoon further supported a U.N. initiative to promote worldwide “digital ethics,” including the crusade against disinformation.

“If we fail to curb the spread of fake news resulting from the misuse of A.I. and digital technologies, our freedom will be at risk, the market economy anchored in liberal democracy will be imperiled, and our very future will be under threat,” he said.

Yoon said the Korean government would soon host a “global A.I. forum,” and plans to “collaborate closely with a high-level advisory body on A.I. being established by the U.N.”

The South Korean president said global development would remain “elusive” without international peace and stability, which are threatened by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

“During my visit to Kyiv last July, I saw the sorrow in the eyes of children being treated at the national childrens’ hospital,” he said. “Children are our future, yet children are oftentimes the first victims of war.”

Yoon pledged heavy South Korean support for Ukrainian reconstruction but had few suggestions for stopping the war. He implicitly acknowledged that the growing alliance between the world’s strongest tyrannical powers means the U.N. can bring little diplomatic pressure to bear.

“It is paradoxical that a permanent member of the U.N. Security Council, entrusted as the ultimate guardian of world peace, would wage war by invading another sovereign nation, and receive arms and ammunition from a regime that blatantly violates U.N. Security Council resolutions,” Yoon said, referring to Russia and North Korea.

Yoon said North Korea’s nuclear missile program remains “a direct and existential threat” to the peace of South Korea, and is also “a serious challenge to peace in the Indo-Pacific region and across the globe.”

This photo provided on Tuesday, March 28, 2023, by the North Korean government shows a missile launch test on March 27, 2023, in undisclosed location in North Korea. Independent journalists were not given access to cover the event depicted in this image distributed by the North Korean government. The content of this image is as provided and cannot be independently verified. Korean language watermark on image as provided by source reads: “KCNA” which is the abbreviation for Korean Central News Agency. (Korean Central News Agency/Korea News Service via AP)

“If the DPRK acquires the information and technology necessary to enhance its WMD capabilities, in exchange for supporting Russia with conventional weapons, the deal will be a direct provocation threatening the peace and security of not only Ukraine, but also the Republic of Korea,” he said. 

The Associated Press

This photo provided by the North Korean government, North Korean leader Kim Jong Un visits a hall wherein are displayed what appeared to be various types of warheads designed to be mounted on missiles or rocket launchers on March 27, 2023, in undisclosed location, North Korea. Independent journalists were not given access to cover the event depicted in this image distributed by the North Korean government. The content of this image is as provided and cannot be independently verified. (Korean Central News Agency/Korea News Service via AP)

Yoon was alluding to rumors that Kim Jong-un, dictator of the DPRK (the North Korean regime’s name for itself), discussed trading some of its huge stockpile of Soviet-era munitions to Russia in exchange for assistance with its nuclear missile program during his recent meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin. 

“The Republic of Korea, together with its allies and partners, will not stand idly by,” Yoon declared, obliquely suggesting Russia’s permanent seat on the U.N. Security Council should be called into question, and that his government is ready to use its temporary vote on the Security Council for “reform.”


Please let us know if you're having issues with commenting.