Dossier reveals diplomacy behind two Koreas’ simultaneous entry into U.N. membership in 1991

SEOUL-- The South Korean government made public a dossier Friday offering a glimpse into dramatic Cold-War era diplomacy by the two Koreas in connection with their historic simultaneous entry into full membership in the United Nations.

The set of documents highlights Seoul's brisk efforts in 1991 to court Moscow and Beijing to support its push to join the world body, which played a key role in mobilizing U.S.-led troops to help the South fight against the invading North in their 1950-53 war. It is part of 405,000 pages of diplomatic documents declassified under a rule on government records that become 30 years old.

North Korea initially opposed separate U.N. membership, claiming it is the only legitimate government on the peninsula. Following a number of failed attempts, however, the South opted for a realistic approach to be admitted together with the North.

South Korean diplomats, in particular, focused in the final months on persuading Beijing not to exercise its veto power, as Moscow changed its stance after establishing diplomatic relations with Seoul in September 1990.

They tried to coax China and North Korea via the Soviet Union, according to the dossier, which includes documents on a meeting between a diplomat at the South Korean Embassy in Washington and a State Department official in charge of China affairs on Jan. 15, 1991. China was maintaining its principled position that an inter-Korean agreement should be made first.

During his meeting with Soviet Vice Foreign Minister Igor Rogachev in Seoul in April, then South Korean Foreign Minister Lee Sang-ok asked Moscow to persuade Pyongyang. Rogachev replied that persuading Pyongyang is a "very difficult task" for Moscow as well.

North Korean diplomats did not sit idle either. In February, a senior Norwegian foreign ministry official told South Korea's ambassador in Oslo that he had a briefing from the North's top envoy there on Pyongyang's position.

But Pyongyang reversed its stance and decided to apply for parallel U.N. membership amid the international community's overwhelming support.

It made the announcement in May and submitted an application for U.N. membership in July. The South followed suit the next month. Both Koreas were admitted at the same time to the U.N. on Sept. 19, 1991 during the 46th General Assembly session.

Another newly declassified dossier shed light on the diplomatic challenges that South Korea faced in 1991 in its push to barter 100,000 tons of rice to North Korea in return for 30,000 tons of coal and 11,000 tons of cement as part of efforts improve cross-border relations.

The March barter deal between a South Korean firm and the North emerged as a key diplomatic issue as the U.S. government highlighted the American rice industry's concerns about the possibility of the deal setting an undesirable precedent for the international rice trade, a document showed.

Seoul stressed the significance of the deal in light of cross-border relations, pointing out that the opposition "only from a commercial standpoint" could adversely influence public opinion in the South. But the U.S. continued to take issue with it.

Later, the South Korean firm shipped 5,000 tons of rice to the North by sea in late July 1991. But such trade could not further expand due to tensions in inter-Korean relations and concerns about potential trade friction with the U.S. and other rice exporters.

Source: Yonhap News Agency