Korea pitches for Arctic Council membership

2013-03-18 20:05

Korea is seeking to boost its role in the Arctic by sharing research assets and technological knowhow on coping with climate change, energy, shipping and other key issues, Seoul officials said Monday.

Nearly 100 policymakers, diplomats, scientists and industry officials from Korea and the Arctic region took part in an international symposium in Seoul to discuss their policy, research and other activities.

Titled “Arctic Research & Policy in the New Age of Opening Arctic,” the one-day event was jointly hosted by the Foreign Ministry and the Korea Polar Research Institute.

Global powers have been vying for a bigger stake in a vast treasure trove of natural resources as global warming quickens the melting of ice sheets, opening up shipping routes across the mineral-rich ocean.

Korea is hoping to become a permanent observer to the Arctic Council, a multinational forum in charge of addressing regional issues, cashing in on its climate campaign and technological clout in shipbuilding and shipping. Its eight members are the U.S., Russia, Canada, Sweden, Denmark, Norway, Finland and Iceland. 
 
Vice Foreign Minister Cho Tae-yul addresses a conference on Arctic research and policy in Seoul on Monday. (Yonhap News)

Vice Foreign Minister Cho Tae-yul stressed the need for broader cooperation in tackling climate change beyond the Arctic states.

“We want to share our experience and knowledge at the Arctic Council,” he said in his celebratory remarks.

Lars Danielsson, Swedish ambassador to Korea, said Seoul’s application was under serious consideration, noting his country’s strong support for Korea’s bid to be a permanent observer.

Korea became an ad hoc observer to the council in 2008, along with the European Union, China, Italy and Japan. They are part of some 40 nations and international groups applying for permanent status, which will be decided on at a ministerial meeting in May.

Shin Maeng-ho, director-general of the Foreign Ministry’s international legal affairs bureau, pitched potential synergy with Seoul’s “green growth” policy under which it pledges to cut greenhouse gas emissions by 30 percent of projected levels by 2020.

Former President Lee Myung-bak had strived to reinforce bilateral cooperation with Arctic states after unveiling his green growth vision in 2008.

The country has also been expanding its research projects in the region since the 2002 launch of the Arctic Dasan Station on a Norwegian island.

“President Park Geun-hye will also keep paying attention to Arctic issues and continue to work with council members for environmental protection and sustainable development of the region,” Shin said in his keynote speech.

“Green growth is the only viable path to achieve sustainable development and is fully in harmony with the goal of the Arctic Council.”

By Shin Hyon-hee (heeshin@heraldcorp.com)
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