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Korea can bridge Global West, South: ex-UN Undersecretary-General

By Sanjay Kumar

Published : April 30, 2024 - 11:27

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Former UN Undersecretary-General Kim Won-soo delivers a lecture on “Korea and the Changing World Issues” at Korea CQ Forum at the residence of Singapore Ambassador in Seongbuk-gu, Seoul, on Tuesday. (CICI) Former UN Undersecretary-General Kim Won-soo delivers a lecture on “Korea and the Changing World Issues” at Korea CQ Forum at the residence of Singapore Ambassador in Seongbuk-gu, Seoul, on Tuesday. (CICI)

South Korea could play an instrumental role in connecting the Global West and the South with its strong commitment to international cooperation and overseas assistance funds for developing countries, former UN Undersecretary-General Kim Won-soo at the CQ Forum in Seoul.

Speaking at the CQ Forum in Seoul held last week, Kim said Korea was in a position to address fragmentation, skepticism and uncertainty in the world order, referring to its leading role in hosting a series of summits on contentious issues including democracy and artificial intelligence.

"The global south is, I think, the battleground for the global east and global west," he said at the forum hosted by the Corea Image Communication Institute (CICI).

“So who will get their minds and hearts? I think we (Korea) will win that paradigm battle.”

The term "Global South" refers to countries often characterized as "developing," "less developed," or "underdeveloped." While not exclusive to the Southern Hemisphere, many of these nations are located there, predominantly in Africa, Asia and Latin America.

Countries in the Global South have been advocating for a more fair, rational and representative global order for an environment of peace, stability, and sustainable development.

Discussing planetary politics and Korea, Kim cited the nuclear winter, the climate crisis and emerging technology as the perfect storm of existential threats in the present world and called for a paradigm shift from a state-centered to a planet-oriented international order to form coalitions with like-minded states from the global west and south.

Korea's engagement with the Global South is strong because the country once belonged to the Global South and moved to the Global West, said Kim when asked how strong South Korea’s engagement is with countries of the Global South.

Attendees pose for a group photo at Korea CQ Forum at the residence of Singapore Ambassador in Seongbuk-gu, Seoul, on Tuesday. (CICI) Attendees pose for a group photo at Korea CQ Forum at the residence of Singapore Ambassador in Seongbuk-gu, Seoul, on Tuesday. (CICI)

“Korea is one of the very few countries that still commit to increasing our ODA budget,” he said, expressing Korea’s willingness to share its development experiences.

The South Korean government allocated a budget of 6.3 trillion won ($4.7 billion) for official development assistance (ODA) this year, funding 1,976 ODA projects across 47 agencies.

The country’s commitment to ODA has steadily increased since joining the Development Assistance Committee in 2010, aiding developing nations.

Kim said that the Summit for Democracy hosted by South Korea in March this year and the AI Seoul Summit to be co-hosted in May with the UK show Korea’s commitment to finding solutions and lining up with the Global South.

This summit aims to facilitate the safe development of AI technologies, building upon the cooperative framework established by the Bletchley Declaration, according to organizers.

Signed on November 3, 2023, by Australia, 27 other countries and the EU, the declaration commits signatories to proactively manage risks associated with "frontier AI" to ensure safe and responsible development and deployment of highly capable general-purpose AI models.

Meanwhile, he suggested Korea facilitate dialogue between the United States and China to fill the deficit in global public goods provision, leveraging engagement with the Global South.

“Korea can help find the US and China, find common ground,” Kim said, suggesting coalitions with like-minded states.

He also advocated for a plurilateral approach that embraces openness and inclusivity, allowing Korea to build partnerships with as many countries as possible.

Kim pointed out challenges in global governance systems, such as the breakdown of the US Security Council's privacy and the lack of strong leadership due to the US retreat and China's reluctance to fill the gap.

The leadership vacuum is evident in conflicts like those in Eastern Europe and the Middle East, including the Nagorno-Karabakh dispute, according to Kim.

He said activating fortification lines between the Global East and Global West signals shifting geopolitical dynamics with potential implications.

“If the eastern part is going to be activated, then we'll see the third war,” he warned, suggesting international collaboration to prevent conflict escalation and maintain stability.

Urging proactive measures to avert unintended escalations, Kim emphasized the global impact, especially amid upcoming US elections that could either ease tensions or exacerbate them, labeling the situation as "planetary politics."

But the former UN official also cautioned against the growing risks associated with AI-driven warfare, dubbed the "singleton moment," where strategic decisions could be entrusted to artificial intelligence rather than human control.

“That's why Korea is trying to host a second AI summit in September,” he said.