I know that many have approached you about the possibility of your serving as president of Korea after the anticipated impeachment of President Park. You have a unique set of skills and a broad range of friends in the international community that would serve you well. Today, you are surrounded by people asking for your help in this moment of tremendous uncertainty in Korea. But I hope that you have a moment to step back from the crowd and contemplate your role in history now that you have become such a critical figure.
There are several people out there who are entirely capable of serving as the president of the Republic of Korea. But there is an even more critical job, and you are the only one who is qualified to play that role as the former Secretary General of the United Nations.
Last week Donald Trump was sworn in as the president of the United States, someone who has openly opposed a commitment to universal standards on human rights and who has taken as a central advisor John Bolton, a man who is committed to taking the entire United Nations system apart. In addition, President Trump has nominated for secretary of state Rex Tillerton, the former CEO of EXXON, , a man who has no interest in the response to climate change and who has advocated that the United States move to stop all Chinese actions in the South China Seas—an act that many experts think could lead to nuclear war.
The scale of the geopolitical crisis today cannot be overstated and Korea, located at the center of Northeast Asia, with close ties to both the United States and to China, will be one of the first victims of such a new cold war, or hot war. Korea needs you, and your network, to start an entirely original and powerful initiative that will offer an alternative to military conflict, get the focus back to climate change, and set the foundations for long term solution to address this crisis head using a coalition of the committed throughout the region.
You are best placed to lead the effort. You can bring together the best and the brightest of China, Russia, Japan, the United States and Korea to come up with a true grand bargain that will assure a stable peace in Northeast Asia and promote healthy integration. You can take the loose group that made up the Six Party Talks and form it into the foundations for a new system to resolve conflicts and address such pressing issues as arms limitations talks, climate change and the creation of a just society.
Recently Kwaak Young-hoon, president of the Silk Road Cities Cooperation Forum, remarked to me, “We must move beyond the simple rubric of the nation state as we pursue a new vision for global governance. We need to work with cities, to form alliances that will create a denser web of connections in terms of culture, economics and the environment. The Silk Road offers the opportunity to revive the powerful traditions of cooperation from the past and use them as we build the future.”
Dr. Kwaak was suggesting a future direction for the United Nations. He implies that the connections based on cultural exchange of the Silk Road could be a model for us. We cannot cling to an outdated vision of international relations any longer. We must avoid conflicts born of economic arrogance. You, Mr. Ban, can bring our region together and you can enlist the help of the United Nations as we respond to this critical need.
Korea has a special relationship with the United Nations from long before the Korean War which you should embrace. When Emperor Gojong sent Yi Jun and Yi Oui Jeong to the Second International Peace Conference at the Hague in 1907 to plead for Korea’s rights, he knew that those advocates for global peace were sympathetic to Korea’s cause. One of the leading international peace groups, Cercle Internationale, gave them the floor and Yi Oui Jeong delivered an impassioned speech.
When the Korean independence movement arose in 1919, protestors did not contemn Japan as a nation, but called rather for a vision of a global cooperation and peace, as had Ahn Jung-Geun before them, that went beyond ruthless imperialism. The Korean independence movement also embraced the peace movement which drove the establishment of the League of Nations.
When the Indian poet Rabindranath Tagore wrote in 1929 of Korea, saying, “In the Golden Age of Asia/Korea was one of the lamp-bearers/That lamp waits to be lighted once again/For the illumination of the East” He was suggesting that the movement for both world peace and for local independence led by Korea offered us the potential to transform the very culture of Asia. Tragore thought that Korea’s culture could lead us to a new renaissance beyond the materialistic Western culture that had overrun the world in the colonial period.
You have been granted a chance to realize Korea’s destiny as a nation of peace. Mr. Ban, and to lead the United Nations in a new and positive direction at this time of profound danger and gathering darkness. Continue you work here in Northeast Asia. There is no time to waste.