South Korea's powerhouse economy seems about to deliver a major political dividend: a seat at the U. N. For decades, China and the Soviet Union have used the threat of a veto in the Security Council to back North Korea's demand for a single Korean seat in the world body shared by North and South. But now, the prospects of trade with dynamic South Korea are worth much more to Beijing and Moscow than ideological kinship with the North. So the Chinese and Soviets are prepared to let South Korea into the U. N. club when its application comes up for a vote next fall. President Roh Tae Woo set the stage on Apr. 5 by applying for separate South Korean membership--its first such bid since 1975.
The idea will get a boost when President Mikhail Gorbachev visits South Korea on Apr. 19. And Chinese Premier Li Peng is expected to discuss Seoul's U. N. bid during a planned visit to Pyongyang.