A Little Mudslinging

One reason that Ban Ki-Moon‘s nomination, decided last October, was delayed until this month, was, according to the Foreign Ministry, because “…an early announcement of its candidate could trigger mudslinging and harsh media scrutiny.”

Well, it’s still not too late, apparently.

On Friday, the candidate had to defend his candidacy against his government’s practice of abstaining on UN resolutions critical of North Korea‘s human rights record.

“I don’t think a specific issue like North Korean human rights has a direct connection to the bid for the UN secretary-general’s seat,” Ban told reporters. Asked by a CBS reporter whether the way the South Korean government handles human rights conditions in North Korea could hurt his bid for the UN job, Ban replied, “What the secretary general does is not directly related to a specific issue in a particular country.”

The minister said he was “well aware” of criticism of the South Korean government for abstaining on resolutions on North Korea’s human rights abuses in the world body. But he said the government had “taken many opportunities to demonstrate its concern about the issue.”

Ban recognizes that he will also face difficulties in securing Japan’s vote. Japan, presently a rotating member of the Security Council, was until last month strongly pressing for a permanent seat – a goal opposed by South Korea. Also, tensions escalated betweeen the two governments last October with Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi’s publicized visit to the Yasukuni Shrine, a memorial to Japanese war dead that South Koreans see as a glorification of Japanese militarism.

President Roh Moo-hyun considers getting Ban elected as the next UNSG a task “of unprecedented importance since the establishment of the government,” according to the online newspaper Dong-a Ilbo. The government’s representatives to the P5 members have apparently been put on the campaign trail for their countryman. Ambassador to Russia Kim Jae-soop is hoping to gain Russia’s vote by leveraging Ban’s friendship with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov. Ambassador to France Chu Cheol-ki is “going out of his way to collect relevant information,” given France’s silence on its position. Meanwhile, the country’s permanent ambassador to the UN, Choi Young-jin, is keeping tabs on possible movement in New York.

“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.”

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