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[Diplomatic News] The Secretary General Race

Posted February. 24, 2006 03:06,   


At a foreign mission chief conference in Seoul attended by Korean ambassadors from around the world, Korea’s ambassadors to the five permanent U.N. Security Council members (P5), the U.S., U.K., France, China, and Russia, and Korea’s U.N. ambassador were given a task “of unprecedented importance since the establishment of the government”: getting Minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade Ban Ki-moon elected as the next U.N. Secretary General.

Securing the approval of the P5 is a necessary first step.

Korea’s Ambassador to the U.S. Lee Tae-shik, Ambassador to China Kim Ha-jung, Ambassador to Russia Kim Jae-seop, and U.N. Permanent Representative Choi Young-jin are all likely candidates for the position of foreign minister should Ban win. “It will be no good for you all if Minister Ban loses this race,” said President Roh Moo-hyun. But the minister’s candidacy is an issue not to be taken lightly.

The Foreign Ministry’s campaign strategy is for Ban to keep a “low profile.” Kang Kyung-wha, director-general for International Organizations, said.

The only specific campaign move detected within the Foreign Ministry in January was its recall of diplomatic minister Seo Yong-hyun, then working in the Office of Korea to the OECD, as Ban’s special advisor. Seo, who had been at the OECD for only a year, was reportedly a “summons” to prepare for the U.N. Secretary General election. Seo is said to have good English writing skills in the Foreign Ministry, and he is likely to take charge of writing all of the English documents or letters required for the election campaign.

The Permanent Representative of the Republic of Korea to the United Nations in New York has been Ban’s “campaign headquarters” to date. Permanent Representative Choi Young-jin and Deputy Permanent Representative Oh Joon have been closely coordinating their work even before Ban announced his candidacy for the U.N. Secretary General post.

“At present, it is most important to keep tabs on the moves of the P5,” said Ambassador Choi. “That is why I keep my ears open for P5 developments while frequently participating in and having conversations with the P5.”

The Korean Permanent Representative to the U.N. says that the P5 already began non-official consultations regarding the appointment of a new Secretary General on February 16. Those consultations were focused on procedures, such as the election period, rather than assessments of individual candidates, however.

Meanwhile, the consensus is that the election procedures should be moved up by two to three months. They are usually held in November or December to provide the incoming secretary-general with the necessary time to warm up to his or her expected tasks.

France and Russia, which are expected to play a decisive role, are still not revealing their positions.

One high-ranking diplomat with the Korean Embassy in Russia confessed, “We are frustrated because Russia has still not hinted at anything. The embassy is on edge because there has been talk of support for Thai Deputy Prime Minister Surakiart Sathirathai.

For this reason, Korea’s embassy to Russia is pinning its hopes on Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov’s personal friendship with Ban. Lavrov is known to have become friends with Ban, a chief secretary for then-president of the 56th Session of the United Nations General Assembly Han Seung-soo, when he was the Permanent Representative of the Russian Mission to the U.N.

France has yet to disclose its position on this matter either, although Ambassador Chu Cheol-ki is going out of his way to collect relevant information.