Foreign Minister Yun Byung-se on Monday pledged that South Korea will work closely with the international community to curb climate change affecting the Arctic and to ensure the sustainable development of the polar region.
Yun made the pledge during the Conference on Global Leadership in the Arctic that the United States hosted in Anchorage, Alaska, to focus world attention on climate change affecting the polar region and discuss ways to tackle the phenomenon.
"My government, for the first time ever, has designated the Arctic as a major policy area, with the vision of a sustainable future for the Arctic," he said.
Yun also said that the Arctic is a key part of South Korean President Park Geun-hye's "Eurasian Initiative" that calls for binding Eurasian nations closely together by linking roads, railways and maritime routes into a single economic bloc.
"The opening of the Arctic Sea will inevitably generate both opportunities and challenges," he said. "Recently, Korea, the U.S.
and Russia cooperated in a search and rescue operation in extreme conditions for a Korean vessel near the Arctic Ocean. Such cooperation for crisis management will continue to grow in importance."
Outlining South Korea's Arctic policy, Yun said he believes it is possible to seize new opportunities emerging from the Arctic while at the same time coping with the challenges of global warming.
Yun emphasized that South Korea is firmly committed to tackling climate change.
He also said this week's conference will provide momentum for December's U.N. climate change conference in Paris, and urged leading industrialized nations to put forward their commitments to reducing green house gas emissions.
In late June, South Korea offered to cut greenhouse gas emissions by 37 percent by 2030 from 850.6 million tons of carbon dioxide equivalents, an amount Seoul says it would reach if it let business run as usual. The ambitious pledge underscores the country's commitment to play a leading role in the fight against climate change.
In 2013, South Korea gained permanent observer status at the Arctic Council, a key decision-making group of countries with territory in the resources-rich region, paving the way for the country to have a greater say in how one of the world's last untapped regions should be developed.
"Korea is committed to working closely with the Arctic Council in preserving the Arctic's pristine environment and securing its sustainable development," Yun said, adding that South Korea is preparing a national report for submission to the council. (Yonhap)