March 15, 2023
SEOUL – President Yoon Suk Yeol’s decision to lead one of the plenary sessions at the
Summit for Democracy, a US-led meeting of democratic countries united against authoritarian rule, will raise South Korea’s international profile as a leading democracy committed to peace, the Foreign Ministry in Seoul said Tuesday.
US President Joe Biden has invited Yoon to chair a session held on March 29 — the first day of the two-day gathering where world leaders will virtually discuss advancing human rights recognition. The next day, ministers will meet in person to deepen conversations about challenges like fighting corruption, with representatives from the private sector also taking part in the event. It first took place virtually in December 2021.
“Our Indo-Pacific strategy, which is the first comprehensive blueprint addressing Korea’s ties with the world, is centered around this: freedom, peace and prosperity. With that in mind, I see we can double down on our contributions to realizing what the March summit hopes to achieve,” said Park Yong-min, deputy minister for multilateral and global affairs at the Foreign Ministry.
Representing the Indo-Pacific region, Korea is one of the four countries co-hosting the event, with the Netherlands, Zambia and Costa Rica representing Europe, Africa and Central and South America as co-hosts, respectively.
Addressing guests during a forum on what being co-hosts at the summit means for Korea, Park called the event yet another opportunity to tout 70 years of ties with the US this year, South Korea’s biggest ally. The US helped push back North Korea’s invasion during the 1950-53 Korean War.
Lee Sook-jong, president of the Asia Democracy Research Network at the East Asia Institute, said the global gathering will help Seoul play a role in reshaping the global order as the US and China step up efforts to outpace each other.
Joining the coalition of such “like-minded countries” that share the same values like freedom and the rule of law is not necessarily anti-China, Lee noted, referring to criticism that the summit is meant to corner Beijing as Washington rallies its allies and partners.
“Inclusivity should be key,” Lee said of what the coalition should prioritize in years to come.
Kang Won-taek, a professor of political science and international relations at Seoul National University, stressed the bigger role Korea now plays on the global stage, in addition to projecting economic power. Korea has long sought political capital commensurate with its economic might, a goal that had been elusive for some time.
“The fact that we are taking initiative. That matters,” Kang said.