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

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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)...

Korea Matters for Europe/ Europe Matters for Korea

This publication maps the relationship between the Republic of Korea and the European Union’s 27 Member States. Covering a diverse range of topics including security, trade, investment, educational exchange and cultural connections,  the importance of the Korea-EU relationship is highlighted. The publication provides English and Korean readers with a snap shot take on these issue-areas. 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…

Tensions between Iran and South Korea

On 4 January 2021, less than a week before the scheduled visit of South Korea’s First Vice Foreign Minister Choi Jong-kun, Iran seized the South Korean chemical tanker Hankuk Chemi and its 20-member crew near the Strait of Hormuz between the Persian Gulf and the Gulf of Oman. South Korea immediately dispatched the Cheonghae anti-piracy unit to waters near the Strait of Hormuz. The Iranian government insists that a “technical” matter of marine pollution triggered the seizure, but Tehran has so far not presented the evidence according to South Korea’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

The 8th Congress of the Workers’ Party of Korea

The 8th Congress of the Workers’ Party of Korea was held from 5 to 12 January in Pyongyang. A total of 7,000 delegates participated in the congress, almost five years after the 7th congress of May 2016. Nominally, the congress is the highest body of the Workers’ Party of Korea, tasked with reviewing the party’s work and setting up policy guidelines until the next congress. The centrepiece of the congress that just finished was Kim Jong-un’s nine-hour work report, in which he addressed key domestic and foreign policy issues. For the most part, the report seems to have consolidated messages that the North Korean government and state media have been laying out in recent months.

Moon Jae-in’s New Year’s Address

President Moon Jae-in delivered the traditional presidential New Year’s Address on Monday. With his non-renewable five-year presidential term coming to an end in 2022, the speech served Moon to highlight the key goals and policies that he seeks to push for during his last full year in office. As usual, the speech focused heavily on domestic issues but also touched on foreign policy issues including inter-Korean relations. With his popularity at record lows but still higher than his predecessors at the same point in their presidency, the New Year’s Address also served Moon to discuss some of the main concerns for the South Korean population. These include the starting date for the rollout of the COVID-19 vaccine programme.

The tenth anniversary of the EU-ROK Strategic Partnership: Successes, Failures, and Prospects

The EU and South Korea are celebrating the tenth anniversary of their strategic partnership this year. Throughout the past decade, South Korea has become the Asian country with the deepest relationship with the EU. It was the first country in Asia to sign and implement a free trade agreement with the EU, which also doubled down as the EU’s first-even new generation FTA. Brussels and Seoul also have a Framework Agreement in place to underpin their political relations. Furthermore, the EU and South Korea have also signed and implemented a Crisis Management participation agreement allowing South Korean troops to join EU missions. As of 2020, South Korea is the only Asian country with these three key agreements covering economic, political, and security relations with the EU in operation.

Ask Europe’s Korea Experts: The Tenth Anniversary of the EU-ROK Strategic Partnership

The EU and South Korea are celebrating the tenth anniversary of their bilateral strategic partnership in 2020. We asked leading Korean Peninsula and Northeast Asia security experts based in Europe to reflect on the successes, failures, and potential areas of future cooperation between the two partners (the responses were collected by December 4th). A total of twelve experts participated in the survey. 

The South Korean defense industry in numbers: Is the new dawn coming?

There was good news for South Korea’s defense industry in the second half of 2020. As part of the Australian Army’s modernization projects, the K-9 Thunder self-propelled howitzer was selected as the preferred negotiator for a 833 million USD artillery acquisition project. In 2015-19, South Korea’s arms exports increased by 143 percent with its share in global exports increasing from 0.9 to 2.1 percent. South Korea’s world ranking as an arms exporter rose in 2018 from 12th to 10th, in line with a year-on-year increase in sales volume from 10.47 billion to 11.18 billion USD. Overall, these are hopeful signs for the defense industry, but they are too weak to promise a “new dawn” and a return to its former glory.

Korea Matters for Europe/Europe Matters for Korea

The Korea Matters for Europe/Europe Matters for Korea publication maps the relationship between the Republic of Korea and the European Union’s 27 Member States. Covering a diverse range of topics including security, trade, investment, educational exchange and cultural connections, this publication highlights the importance of the Korea-EU relationship.

Mapping Out EU-South Korea Relations: Key Member States’ Perspectives (Volume II)

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 Austria, Bulgaria, the Czech Republic, Finland, the Netherlands, Romania and Slovakia, 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.

South Korea and the RCEP

South Korea joined fourteen other Asia-Pacific countries in signing the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP). By some measures, this is the biggest regional trade agreement in the world, accounting for over 30 percent of world GDP (PPP) and 30 percent of the world’s population. RCEP negotiations were formally launched in 2012, which shows that the negotiation process has not been easy. But once the agreement enters into force, it will slash tariffs and unify rules of origin – thus strengthening Asia-Pacific economic integration. The expectation is that South Korea and Japan, the two largest exporters of high-tech goods in the region, will be among the major beneficiaries of the agreement.

The South Korea that Biden encounters

President Moon Jae-in has welcomed incoming president Joe Biden by reiterating the value of the ROK-US alliance. What kind of South Korea will Biden be facing? For many years, South Korea has been able to implement a more or less autonomous foreign policy. Facing constraints, yes. But also putting South Korean interests first. It is a South Korea that is more independent and confident in its foreign policy goals and sees a strong alliance with the United States as a crucial component of its foreign policy. For many South Korean policy-makers, their country’s rise as a regional power – and, increasingly, as a more important player in global affairs – has been facilitated rather than constrained by the ROK-US alliance. It is also a South Korea that will be willing to support US initiatives aimed at checking China’s rise – as long as they don’t openly challenge Beijing.

Mapping Out EU-South Korea Relations: Key Member States’ Perspectives (Volume II)

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 Austria, Bulgaria, the Czech Republic, Finland, the Netherlands, Romania and Slovakia, 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. 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