Now that Liechtenstein, a principality of fewer than 28,000 people, has become the newest U.N. member, South Korea remains the sole country excluded from the organization against its wishes.
A country of more than 42 million people; the 11th-largest trading nation, maintaining diplomatic relations with 142 U.N. members and a country that served as host to the summer Olympics in 1988, South Korea is more than qualified for U.N. membership, which is open to any "peace-loving state" able to fulfill the obligations of the Charter.Unlike Germany, which was forced to accept division as a result of World War II, Korea suffered a division that was forced on its people, who were not aggressors but victims of Japanese colonialism.
Germany is being forgiven its past. Why should Koreans remain victims of a wound festering for the same 45 years of the U.N.'s existence?
The Persian Gulf crisis, which demonstrates the possibility of regional conflict despite the end of the Cold War, coupled with the role being played in the crisis by today's "new United Nations," offers important lessons.
These lessons are the rediscovery of the U.N. peacekeeping role as envisioned by the founders, the need for muscle to enforce resolutions and a realization that the United Nations can be effective only when the national interests of the countries involved converge. These lessons can be applied to Korea.
Admitting both Koreas into membership would be a sensible step toward securing participation from the warring sides in peace negotiations.
While not an economic giant, South Korea is a significant actor in the world economy. As a full U.N. member it could significantly help cover U.N. expenses as the organization's volume of increases.
The United States and Japan have long supported simultaneous membership of the two Koreas, correctly believing it to be one realistic approach to the peninsula's problems.
China, the last opponent of South Korean membership, not only should recognize South Korea's economic vitality but also its political potency. Beijing should assess the imminent establishment of full relations between Moscow and Seoul and re-examine its own reluctance.
While membership would not automatically guarantee peace and security for the peninsula, it would end a diplomatic "hot potato" situation for other countries.
No well-intentioned state, including the United States, need rely any longer on the convenient but false notion that U.N. membership need not be considered while the Koreas are at loggerheads.
If the new United Nations is to resolve the last legacy of World War II and assert its relevance and efficacy in the new world order, it will admit the Koreas.
This will afford both countries a convenient and increasingly effective channel of communication; this will promote mutual confidence and trust, whose lack has been the biggest obstacle to unification.
(Hong-choo Hyun is South Korea's permanent observer at the United Nations.)