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Our recent publications

Challenges and Opportunities of Korea’s Foreign Policy as a Developed Country

The South Korea of 2022 is a developed country, a strong democracy, and a cultural powerhouse. The old adage of South Korea being a ‘shrimp among whales’ is outdated and does not correspond to the reality of contemporary South Korea. There is a need, therefore, for a new paradigm in South Korea’s foreign policy that reflects the country’s new position as a global player.

President Yoon Suk-yeol’s participation in the Madrid NATO Summit

President Yoon Suk-yeol has participated in the NATO Summit held in Madrid on June 29th-30th, along with the leaders of the organization’s three other key Asia-Pacific partners: Australia, Japan, and New Zealand. This is the first time that the leaders of the four countries have been invited to attend a NATO summit, a symbol of the growing ties between the transatlantic security organization and its four Asia-Pacific partners.

President Yoon Suk-yeol’s Special Envoy Europe visit

President Yoon Suk-yeol’s Special Envoy to the EU Kim Gi-hyeon is leading a seven member delegation to Europe from June 5th-11th. The delegation plans to visit Brussels and Strasbourg for meetings with leaders of the different EU institutions and NATO, as well as Paris for meetings with the Emmanuel Macron government and since France currently holds the rotating presidency of the EU.

Korea-EU Cooperation: Moving to the Next Level

This report aims at initiating a positive reflection process within the new South Korean government and EU institutions to boost bilateral political, economic, and security cooperation, by focusing on four areas; (1) Green strategic partnership; including green growth, green tech, and sustainable supply chains; (2) Digital cooperation; including resilience against cyber threats, rule and standard setting, and next generation networks; (3) Bilateral FTA modernisation; including digital trade; and (4) Facing together geopolitical challenges from US–China competition in the context of Beijing’s assertiveness, inter-Korean relations, and the need to deal with a Russia that has chosen to confront the existing international order and law. 

South Korea as a “global pivotal state”: the role of partners

President-elect Yoon Suk-yeol has stated that the main goal of his foreign policy will be to make South Korea a “global pivotal state”, with a focus on promoting freedom, peace, and prosperity based on Seoul’s liberal democratic values and – crucially – cooperation. There is often talk about Seoul’s “strategic dilemma” between the United States – its long-standing ally – and China – its largest economic partner. In reality, South Korean policy-makers have long been acting as if their country has a “strategic non-dilemma”.

President-elect Yoon Suk-yeol’s potential approach to Europe

Yoon Suk-yeol was elected as the next South Korean president on March 9th. The election campaign did not focus on foreign policy issues for the most part, but president-elect Yoon has pledged to make South Korea a more active player in global affairs. We can expect this to include relations with Europe: European countries, the EU, and NATO. In fact, discussions about Russia’s invasion of Ukraine became part of the election campaign, which shows that South Korea’s more prominent role in global affairs demands that it pays more attention to developments in Europe.

The Foreign Policy of President-elect Yoon Suk-yeol: What to Expect

South Korean voters have elected Yoon Suk-yeol as their next president. What can be expected from the president-elect in terms of foreign policy once he takes office in two months’ time? This Korea Chair Explains analyses the potential foreign policy of the president-elect towards North Korea, the United States, and China.

Climate change: What Lee Jae-Myung and Yoon Suk-Yeol think

rapid actions and no further delays are required. Changes of administrations, however, always create uncertainty because of the change in persons, programs and priorities. On the other hand, commitments made at COP26 were incurred by the Korean government and the international community expects South Korea to resolutely engage in line with its development and CO2 consumption, past and future, and to honour its Green New Deal.

The Moon Jae-in presidency: key foreign policy legacies

South Korea has become an increasingly important foreign policy actor as a result of its economic development, military build-up, democratic credentials and, it should be noted, geographical location. However, South Korea’s involvement in global discussions has grown during the Moon presidency as the Sino-American rivalry has grown and, in politico-diplomatic terms, Seoul has sided with its fellow democracies. In recent weeks, South Korea has also been part of discussions with partners about the design of sanctions to be imposed on Russia if it invaded Ukraine, as Moscow has finally done. Once the invasion has taken place, Seoul has gone ahead and joined sanctions.

The Moon Jae-in presidency: key domestic legacies

Moon Jae-in has entered his last few weeks as South Korean president. A new president will be elected on March 9th and take office in May. Differently to previous South Korean presidents, Moon has not had a real lame-duck period. This has been the result of his Democratic Party of Korea (DPK) holding a supermajority in the National Assembly, as well as the need for active government intervention to manage the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. Indeed, the pandemic is set to define Moon’s legacy as much as the policies that his government enacted during its first three years in office. What are the key domestic legacies of the Moon Jae-in presidency? And what have been the main domestic shortcomings of the Moon Jae-in presidency?

Challenges and Opportunities of Korea’s Foreign Policy as a Developed Country

The South Korea of 2022 is a developed country, a strong democracy, and a cultural powerhouse. The old adage of South Korea being a ‘shrimp among whales’ is outdated and does not correspond to the reality of contemporary South Korea. There is a need for a new paradigm in South Korea’s foreign policy that reflects the country’s new position as a global player. This paradigm ought to be based on South Korea’s status as a developed country; it has to move from a reactive to a proactive foreign policy. As the contributors to this report discuss in detail, embracing its role as a developed country will allow South Korea to become more recognised as a key foreign policy actor — but also to benefit itself from a more active role in international affairs. Read more…

The Foreign Policy Team of Candidate Yoon Suk-yeol Answers Our Questions about Relations with Europe 

KF-VUB Korea Chair asked the foreign policy teams of the candidates of the two leading South Korean parties to answer four questions about relations between South Korea and Europe. These are the answers from the team of Candidate Yoon Suk-yeol exactly as they were received. Read more…

The EU’s Indo-Pacific Strategy: Prospects for Cooperation with South Korea

The European Union formally presented its long-awaited Indo-Pacific Strategy in September 2021. As the successful implementation of the strategy depends on constructive cooperation with its partners in the region, this report seeks to understand the potential role of South Korea in this regard. Building upon a comparative analysis of the EU’s Indo-Pacific Strategy and South Korea’s New Southern Policy (Plus), this report identifies four potential areas for increasing cooperation: health, physical connectivity, digital connectivity and maritime security. Read more…

Korea-EU Cooperation: Moving to the Next Level

The time has come to move relations to the next level. The inauguration of new ROK President Yoon Suk-yeol offers the opportunity to build on the successes of previous administrations, both conservative and liberal, and make the South Korea–EU relations a model that other bilateral partnerships could aspire to achieve. This report aims at initiating a positive reflection process within the new South Korean government and EU institutions to boost bilateral political, economic, and security cooperation. Korean and European experts with experience in politics, think tanks, and academia make the case in this report for closer South Korea–EU cooperation in analysing common interests in four areas: green strategic partnership, digital cooperation, FTA modernisation, and geopolitical challenges. Read more…

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…

South Korea-EU Cooperation in Global Governance

Having already celebrated the tenth anniversary of their strategic partnership, with growing bilateral cooperation, and in a post-COVID-19 pandemic environment, the time has come for South Korea and the EU to establish systematic cooperation in global governance. It is in this context that this reports presents an analysis of areas of potential cooperation and actionable recommendations in five universal issue-areas which can only be effectively addressed multilaterally: democracy, health, human rights, human security, and trade. Read more…

About KF-VUB Korea Chair

KF-VUB Korea Chair is hosted at the Centre for Security, Diplomacy and Strategy (CSDS) of the Brussels School of Governance (BSOG). It 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 Professor of International Relations at King’s College London.

© Korea Chair – Vrije Universiteit Brussel – 2018