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19 Febr 2020, Brussels


29 Oct, Washington D.C.

1 Oct, Brussels


About the 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.







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…

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…

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…

Latest publications

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.

Peace is More Profitable: Private Sector Inclusion in the Korean Peninsula Peace Process

April 2020 | KF-VUB KOREA CHAIR POLICY BRIEFRiccardo Villa Negotiations for the stability of the Korean Peninsula and North Korea’s nuclear disarmament are currently at an impasse, but a door for diplomacy is still open. The involvement of the private sector, mainly...

South Korea’s National Assembly election: A big win for the liberals

South Korea held its quadrennial National Assembly election on Wednesday. The full 300 seats were up for grabs. Widely seen as a referendum on Moon Jae-in’s presidency as he is about to enter the final two years of his non-renewable five year mandate, the results put him and his party in a strong position to move their agenda forward. The ruling Democratic Party of Korea, Moon’s party, and its satellite party won 180 seats. This allows the ruling party to fast track legislation. No party has ever won so many seats before. The main opposition party, United Future Party, and its satellite party won 103 seats. This means that the liberal bloc, including the Democratic Party, its satellite party and smaller parties, will enjoy a comfortable majority for the next four years.

The Making of South Korea’s COVID-19 Test Success

At least 120 countries have asked South Korea for COVID-19 test kits and other materials to fight against the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. South Korean biotech firms are shipping the kits everywhere from Europe and the United States to the Middle East and Southeast Asia. The secret to South Korea’s test development and manufacturing success lies in Daejeon. This city is home to Daedeok Innopolis, South Korea’s main R&D cluster, including for biotech. Developed since the 1990s, South Korea’s biotech industry is a textbook case of the country’s industrial policy. It is based on two pillars: public-private cooperation and continuity across administrations. This is what Daedeok Innopolis and South Korea’s COVID-19 test success embody.

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.

Pride and Prosecution in the Korean Ministry of Justice

The South Korean Ministry of Justice has emerged as the epicentre of political turmoil since fall 2019. The main protagonists are former Justice Minister Cho Kuk, who is under investigation for legal and ethical transgressions, and current Minister Choo Mi-ae, who reshuffled the Prosecutor’s Office amid investigations into political allies of President Moon Jae-in and his Democratic Party. The two close allies of President Moon have made the Democratic Party vulnerable to the accusation of hypocrisy and of pursuing a governance style in which their cause justifies all means.

Give bombs a chance – for peace

Negotiations for North Korea’s nuclear disarmament face many difficulties, but an exchange of a few North Korean nuclear warheads and a partial lifting of economic sanctions is a work-around for both North Korean and U.S. concerns. Unlike dismantlement of nuclear or missile facilities, transfer of nuclear warheads does not weaken North Korea’s future bargaining position or is susceptible to deception by the regime. In exchange, the United States should offer a partial but significant lifting of economic sanctions because North Korean negotiators have asked for it, no one has to pay for it, and it is a quantitatively adjustable concession according to the number of warheads transferred.

Why Parasite’s big win at the Oscars is a game changer

Parasite (2019), a satirical masterpiece directed by South Korean helmer Bong Joon-ho, became the first non-English language film awarded the Best Picture in the 92 years of history of the Oscars. The film also won three other major awards including Best Director for Bong, Best Original Screenplay and Best International Feature Film. The critically lauded film has been sweeping international awards since its premier and winning the Palme d’Or at the 2019 Cannes Film Festival, including Golden Globes and BAFTAs, but also achieved a remarkable market success for a subtitled piece, currently ranked the sixth highest foreign language film of all-time at the US domestic box office. The win is, however, not a mere surprise or an exception but referred to as a ‘Game Changer.’

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

Listen to our podcasts
We regularly host guests ranging from experts to journalists.

View our events
We organise events in Brussels and across Europe, as well as in the US and South Korea. 

The Europe Korea Expert Panel
A network of leading Europe-based experts on Korean and Northeast Asian affairs has been established to highlight European views on developments in the Korean Peninsula. 

Listen to our podcasts

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)...

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South Korea will reopen a complaint filed with the World Trade Organization over Japan’s tightened controls on technology exports to its companies, blaming Tokyo for an alleged lack of commitment in resolving mutual grievances. @Diplomat_APAC https://thediplomat.com/2020/06/south-korea-to-reopen-wto-complaint-over-japan-trade-curbs/

Agreement Reached on Funding of South Korean Workers at U.S. Bases, Pentagon Says https://www.nytimes.com/reuters/2020/06/02/world/asia/02reuters-usa-southkorea-military.html?smid=tw-share

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© Korea Chair – Vrije Universiteit Brussel – 2018