Nunatsiaq Online
NEWS: Around the Arctic March 18, 2013 - 4:32 pm

South Korea’s bid to join Arctic Council strong: Sweden

South Korea and 13 other nations seek observer status

NUNATSIAQ NEWS
Representatives of the Arctic Council permanent participants attend a meeting of the council's sustainable development working group meeting this week in Stockholm. From left to right: Carl
Representatives of the Arctic Council permanent participants attend a meeting of the council's sustainable development working group meeting this week in Stockholm. From left to right: Carl "Puju" Olsen, Leanna Ellsworth and Jim Stotts. (PHOTO COURTESY OF THE SAAMI COUNCIL)

The Yonhap News Agency says South Korea has “fulfilled its obligations in terms of economy, environment and security” in its bid to join the Arctic Council as a permanent observer.

The agency reports that South Korea’s application for observer status at the Arctic Council enjoys “strong” support from Sweden, which holds the chair of the council until May.

At its May ministerial meeting in Sweden, members of the Arctic Council will consider whether South Korea and other nations, including China and Japan, can join the council as permanent observers.

“The Swedish position is that we think the Korean application is a very strong one. We would welcome Korea as a permanent observer if elected,” Sweden’s ambassador to South Korea Lars Danielsson, told Yonhap News Agency in an interview during an international forum held in Seoul on Arctic policy issues.

“What is required is a consensus among all the present council members and we are now trying to form such a consensus,” Danielsson told Yonhap. “But, our principle position is that we would very much welcome Korea. I think that South Korea has already done what is necessary to qualify for the permanent observership.

“You have shown strong interests in environmental aspects, economic aspects and in the security aspects of the Arctic region,” he said.

Created in 1996, the Arctic Council is tasked with promoting cooperation, coordination and interaction among Arctic states.

It now consists of eight member nations — Canada, Denmark, Finland, Norway, Sweden, Iceland, the Russian Federation and the United States — and six permanent indigenous participants, including the Inuit Circumpolar Council.

The Arctic Council already has six “observers,” including France and Germany, whom council members have decided can contribute to their work.

But another 14 states and organizations have applied for observer status, including South Korea, the European Union, China, India, Japan, Greenpeace and the Association of Oil and Gas Producers.

A decision on who gets in will be made in May just before Sweden hands over the chair of the Arctic Council to Canada.

The incoming chair, Nunavut MP Leona Aglukkaq, said in October 2012 that observer applicants must “respect and support indigenous peoples in the Arctic region.”

Terry Audla, president of Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami, has also said the Arctic Council should be cautious about opening up observer status to applicants such as China and the European Union who haven’t always respected indigenous rights, both abroad and at home.

This week senior Arctic officials and permanent indigenous participants met in Stockholm in the lead-up to the May 15 ministerial meeting of the Arctic Council in Kiruna in northern Sweden.

That’s where the chair of the Arctic Council will be handed over to Canada.

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