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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…

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.

The Koreas and the US presidential election

At the time of writing, US voters seem to have spoken and Joe Biden will emerge as the winner of the 2020 US presidential election. Most reliable media have declared Biden the winner of the election based on votes counted and the electoral votes allocated accordingly. Even though it seems that Donald Trump will litigate the results and will try to have them overturned, other countries will have to operate under the assumption that Biden will become the new US president come January. In the case of South Korea, we can expect the Moon Jae-in government to have an overall positive view of the change in president. In the case of North Korea, its position towards the new president would be less clear.

Biden, Trump and Moon: Prospects for the US-South Korea Relationship post-2020

If South Korea could cast a vote in the US presidential election, who would it support? From President Moon Jae-in’s perspective, three issues promise to be particularly relevant for the US-ROK relationship going forward: Credible deterrence against a potential North Korean aggression, the process of inter-Korean reconciliation and the evolution of Sino-American rivalry in East Asia. Attempts to forecast Donald Trump and Joe Biden’s respective Korean strategies in too much detail should surely be taken with a grain of salt. But the candidates’ track record and campaign rhetoric can still serve as a useful starting point for predicting some of the broader contours in this regard. Overall, a Biden presidency is Seoul’s safest bet. Friction will continue between the two countries, and North Korea remains a major wild card. Nonetheless, if Biden wins, expect the Blue House to breathe a sigh of relief.

Beyond traditional security: South Korea’s positioning towards the cyber, energy, maritime and trade security domains

This report sets out to analyse South Korea’s positioning in non-traditional security. Since the end of the Cold War, non-traditional threats have become more central to the national security of countries everywhere across the world. South Korea is no exception. This report helps to address this imbalance in our understanding of threats to South Korean national security. It analyses non-traditional security by focusing on four key domains: cyber, energy, maritime and trade.

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. The EU has accelerated its work on 5G & cyber policies and has published a “toolbox” to identify high-risk vendors. While Europe rethinks its relationship with China and its stance on the campaign, others are turning towards trusted suppliers such as South Korea’s Samsung Electronics which has recently obtained 5G equipment supply contracts with several countries. South Korea and the EU are navigating an increasingly competitive landscape with economic and diplomatic pitfalls, as well as opportunities. As they face growing and divisive pressures from the US and China, the EU and South Korea are committing to multilateralism.

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.

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