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We publish monthly policy briefs and Explainers following impactful events on the Korean Peninsula.

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The Europe Korea Expert Panel
A network of leading Europe-based experts on Korean and Northeast Asian affairs which highlights European views on developments in the Korean Peninsula.

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Episode 11: Jung H. Pak on US-North Korea summitry and a possible deal

In this episode, Ramon Pacheco Pardo invites Jung H. Pak to discuss her upcoming book “Becoming Kim Jong Un” and her insights on developments in North Korea which she gained as a CIA analyst and North Korea watcher since 2009.

Episode 1: Bark Taeho, Trade Minister of the Republic of Korea (2011-13), on Korea’s trade policies and future challenges

In the first episode, KF-VUB Korea Chair invites Bark Taeho, Trade Minister of the Republic of Korea (2011-13), to share his experiences in government while negotiating or implementing three key FTA’s (KORUS, EU-Korea FTA, China-Korea FTA) and his role at the WTO.

Episode 10: Kim Hyun-wook & Rachel Minyoung Lee on North Korea, 17 July

In this episode, Ramon Pacheco Pardo invites Kim Hyun-wook and Rachel Minyoung Lee to discuss the current state of affairs on the Korean Peninsula. Over the past months, following the unsuccessful summit in Hanoi, US-North Korea relations reached an impasse. After the historic meeting of President Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un at the DMZ on June 30, there is a realistic chance that negotiations between the United States and North Korea towards denuclearisation and the lifting of sanctions can resume. This is also an opportunity for the South Korean government and President Moon to revive the inter-Korean peace process and to move forward with the implementation of the Panmunjom Declaration.

Episode 9: KF-VUB Korea Chair on US President Trump’s visit to North Korea, 8 July

In this episode, Ramon Pacheco Pardo invites Tongfi Kim and Linde Desmaele to assess the historical visit of US President Donald Trump to North Korea. They discuss how this was a win for the US and both Koreas, and whether there might be a deal before the 2020 US elections.

Episode 8: Stephan Haggard on the Hanoi Trump-Kim Summit, 26 Feb

In this episode, Ramon Pacheco Pardo invites Stephan Haggard to discuss expectations for the nuclear negotiations at the 27-28 Feb Hanoi Summit between US President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un.

Episode 7: Andrea Berger & John Nilsson-Wright on current US-DPRK and inter-Korean relations, 30 Nov

In this episode, Ramon Pacheco Pardo invites Andrea Berger and John Nilsson-Wright to discuss the current state of US-North Korea relations, recent developments in South Korea-North Korea relations and the role of China.

Episode 6: On current US-DPRK and inter-Korean relations & next steps ahead, 22 Nov

In this episode, Ramon Pacheco Pardo invites Duyeong Kim and Youkyung Lee to discuss the slowdown in current US-DPRK relations, with the second Trump-Kim summit remaining unconfirmed, in relation to the ongoing strengthening of inter-Korean relations, as well as the role of China in this process. Further discussed is Kim Jong-un’s potential visit to South Korea and what can be gained from it.

Episode 5: Assessing President Moon’s trip to Europe, 16 Oct

In this episode, Ramon Pacheco Pardo invites Jina Kim and Nicola Casarini to discuss the South Korean President Moon Jae-in’s trip to Europe, developments in the US-DPRK-ROK peace-making and denuclearisation process, and the invitation to the Pope to visit North Korea.

Episode 4: Assessing the third inter-Korean summit of 2018

In this episode, Ramon Pacheco Pardo, Tongfi Kim & Linde Desmaele discuss expectations for the third inter-Korean summit of 2018 between South Korean President Moon Jae in and North Korea leader Kim Jong Un. This podcast was recorded on the first day of the summit...

Episode 3: Assessing Inter-Korean and US-North Korea Relations

In this episode, Ramon Pacheco Pardo invites Jonathan Cheng to discuss the current state of inter-Korean and US-North Korea relations, as well as his experience covering recent summits involving North Korea. Featuring: Dr. Ramon Pacheco Pardo (KF-VUB Korea Chair)...

Mapping Out EU-South Korea Relations: Key Member States’ Perspectives

What is the perspective of key EU member states towards South Korea? While EU- South Korea relations have attracted growing attention in recent years, the relationship between key EU member states and the Asian country remains underexplored. This report addresses this omission by describing and analysing the recent evolution of the relationship between Belgium, France, Germany, Italy, Spain, Poland and Sweden, on the one hand, and South Korea on the other. The report covers the areas of economic relations, security relations, bilateral relations and North Korea, and cultural relations. The report shows that there is a clear trend towards greater cooperation between key EU member states and South Korea. Read more…

 

Injuries in the DPRK: The Looming Epidemic 

Mass casualty incidents such as building collapses and bus crashes are perhaps just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the injury burden in the DPRK – only the worst cases of injury are highlighted in the media. Current economic and geopolitical developments within and surrounding the DPRK point towards more future activity in sectors such as construction, traffic, and tourism. Thus, it is not unreasonable to anticipate a surge in accidents and injuries inside the DPRK. In this context, it is necessary to understand the North Korean healthcare system and its needs to be able to deal with the current and anticipated injury burden. Read more…

5G in Europe and South Korea: navigating the tech landscape

The US campaign against Huawei has brought to the fore questions about secure 5G equipment procurement, at the time when intensive 5G network deployment is planned across Europe. While Europe rethinks its relationship with China and its stance on the campaign, others are turning towards trusted suppliers such as South Korea which has recently obtained 5G equipment supply contracts with the US, Canada and New Zealand. As Samsung Electronics expands its presence in the market, more collaboration is expected with European operators as Chinese competitors are hit with restrictions. The EU has accelerated its work on 5G & cyber policies and has published earlier this year a “toolbox” to identify high-risk vendors. The EU and South Korea are navigating a deeply competitive landscape with economic and diplomatic pitfalls, as they seek to establish digital leadership through international cooperation.

Japan’s New Leader and Korean Peninsula-Japan relations

On 14 September, Suga Yoshihide, Japan’s chief cabinet secretary, was elected as the new president of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party (LDP), to serve the remainder of Abe Shinzo’s term through September 2021. The party’s control of the lower house means that Suga is now set to become prime minister, succeeding Abe, who is the longest serving premier in Japanese history. For Korea-Japan relations, there are reasons to believe that the leadership change is likely to have a more positive effect than a negative one.

The fate of South Korea’s strategic ambiguity to the US and China

South Korea has found itself in a difficult position after the US’ announcement of an ‘United States Strategic Approach to the People’s Republic of China.’ South Korea has cultivated deep economic interests tied to China, and obtained security guarantees through its alliance with the US. For the benefit of these interests, South Korea has kept a strategic ambiguity about China’s controversial issues, but the US’ announcement could push South Korea to change its strategic position which may risk its security and economic interests. In an environment of intensifying hegemonic rivalry, sandwiched between the US and China, it needs to think about a more clear stance. This includes expressing understanding towards US’ grievances with China’s economic activities and voicing issues related to security and values, like democracy and human rights.

The 10th anniversary of the EU-Korea Strategic partnership

A decade of a special relationship – the EU only maintains ten strategic partnerships worldwide. As we reach the ten-year point with Korea, now is the moment, not to look back but to look forward and act. The pressing circumstances of great power rivalry, particularly in Asia, and the global onslaught of the COVID-19 pandemic leave us no time to indulge in congratulatory speeches. A partnership of choice allows us to work together as normative powers to ensure a sustainable, comprehensive and rules-based connectivity, to improve the implementation of human rights, to fight climate change in deeds not words, and to strengthen international law and international governance, as well as the United Nations system. The post-COVID economic recovery and the transition to a sustainable, socially just, resilient and climate neutral economy should be achieved together.

The ROK-EU leaders’ video conference meeting: making practical cooperation materialise

South Korea and the EU held a video conference meeting involving South Korean president Moon Jae-in, European Council president Charles Michel and European Commission president Ursula von der Leyen. The meeting was held to highlight the importance of the bilateral relationship as both sides celebrate the tenth anniversary of their strategic partnership. It will be followed by their tenth bilateral summit, to be held in Seoul as soon as conditions allow. The meeting was seen by both sides as a way to move towards making practical cooperation materialise.

South Korea’s New Deal: Will It Lead the Digital and Green Industry?

At the height of global recognition for its handling of COVID-19, the Moon Jae-in administration is looking ahead with its New Deal plan, being touted as an innovative economic recovery plan, allocating around USD 63 billion till 2025. The plan is split into two pillars, the Digital and Green New Deal. The former focuses on the future through investments in the areas of 5G wireless communication and AI, while bringing the rest of South Korea up to speed in digitalisation.

North Korea’s manufactured crisis: causes and consequences

In recent weeks, North Korea has manufactured a crisis with South Korea. Pyongyang’s words and actions strongly suggest that it would have found any reason to start a crisis in the Korean Peninsula, regardless of Seoul’s response. At the time of writing, North Korea is essentially tearing up the Panmunjom Declaration that both Koreas signed in 2018, including its implementation agreement in the military domain. In short Pyongyang is symbolising that the period of inter-Korean rapprochement launched two years ago is over for the time being.

South Korea’s COVID-19 Success: The Role of Advance Preparations

South Korea has been successful in the containment and management of the spread of the first wave of COVID-19. An early surge in the number of cases in Daegu briefly made South Korea the country with the second largest number of cases back in February. Five months since news of the COVID-19 pandemic emerged from China in late December 2019, however, South Korea is widely seen as a model for dealing with this crisis. To a large extent, this is due to the country’s preparedness to deal with pandemics. Since the MERS outbreak of 2015, and also the MS Sewol ferry disaster one year earlier, the South Korean state has developed the necessary capacities to prepare for pandemics.

South Korea’s Corona-Diplomacy in the Soft Power Race

While countries in the West have suffered from domestic struggles, the global crisis caused by COVID-19 has become an opportunity for public diplomacy for several countries in the East. Once having the second largest outbreak in the world behind China, South Korea succeeded in flattening the curve quickly thanks to swift government intervention and joined the soft power race immediately. However, the initiative was purposefully connected to public diplomacy at home with the aim of winning the 21st legislative election. Promoted as “South Korea’s corona-diplomacy” by government campaigns, the victory against the novel coronavirus narrative was deliberately employed to get domestic consensus behind approving the Moon administration, whose strategy achieved its objective.

Moon’s Three Years in Office Speech: a Post-pandemic Address

President Moon Jae-in gave a speech on May 10th, on the occasion of the third anniversary since his inauguration. With two years in his non-renewable five-year presidency to go and South Korea recovering from the first wave of the COVID-19 pandemic, Moon sought to set his government’s priorities for a post-pandemic world. Inevitably, the address was dominated by South Korea’s response to the economic consequences of the pandemic. But Moon also referred to how his government plans to make use of the international ramifications of the pandemic to press its foreign policy agenda.

Moon Jae-in’s Policy Towards Multilateral Institutions: Continuity and Change in South Korea’s Global Strategy

The Moon government has made participation in global governance a cornerstone of its foreign policy. Similarly to its predecessors, the government has been a strong supporter of multilateralism. This is non-negotiable for Seoul. This report seeks to map out and analyse the Moon government’s policy towards key multilateral institutions operating in the areas of security, economics and sustainable development. It also seeks to explain the key drivers underpinning this policy. As we show, Seoul’s support for an involvement in multilateral institutions is not uniform. The Moon government acts as a leader in some cases, an active participant in others, and a passive by-stander on occasions. Read more…

About the KF-VUB Korea Chair

The KF-VUB Korea Chair at the Institute for European Studies is the primary contact point in Europe on policy issues related to Korea and the Korean Peninsula.

A joint initiative between the Korea Foundation and Vrije Universiteit Brussel (VUB), the Chair plays a strategic role in furthering Europe-Korea relations. It builds links between Europe and Korea through a number of activities and partnerships, and contributes actively to increasing the possibilities for their future cooperation on bilateral, regional and global levels.

The KF-VUB Korea Chair was launched in Brussels in October 2017 and in Seoul in May 2018. It acts as an independent platform in Brussels and across Europe to advance academically rigorous and informed discussions on policy questions that are of relevance to the Republic of Korea and Europe. It conducts policy research and discussions on a wide range of areas, with special focus on the security of the Korean Peninsula, EU-ROK relations and South Korea’s foreign policy. 

The Chair holder is Dr. Ramon Pacheco Pardo who is also a Reader in International Studies at King’s College London.

Read the KF-VUB Korea Chair booklet for more information.

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© Korea Chair – Vrije Universiteit Brussel – 2018