Korea Chair Publications
22 September 2020 | KF-VUB KOREA CHAIR POLICY BRIEF
Paula Cantero Dieguez
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. Read more…
14 September 2020 | KOREA CHAIR EXPLAINS
Dr. Tongfi Kim
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. Read more…
16 July 2020 | KF-VUB KOREA CHAIR POLICY BRIEF
Dr. Sung Kyoo Ahn
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. Read more…
9 July 2020 | KF-VUB KOREA CHAIR POLICY BRIEF
Dr. Michael Reiterer
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 current circumstances present an unprecedented opportunity to put words into concrete action in addressing climate change. The post-COVID economic recovery and the transition to a sustainable, socially just, resilient and climate neutral economy should be achieved together. Read more…
30 June 2020 | KOREA CHAIR EXPLAINS
Dr. Ramon Pacheco Pardo
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. Both South Korea and the EU believe that there are areas for specific cooperation they can work on. The COVID-19 pandemic has served to highlight this. Read more…
18 June 2020 | KF-VUB KOREA CHAIR POLICY BRIEF
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. The latter plan tackles climate change by committing to the greenhouse gas emissions target laid out in the 2015 Paris Agreement. Both plans are set up for long-term job creation amid the impending Fourth Industrial Revolution. Nonetheless, lack of specificity and inclusivity are the points of contention, and with the administration’s economic track record taken into consideration, there remain doubts amid optimism on the future of the New Deal plan. Read more…
17 June 2020 | KOREA CHAIR EXPLAINS
Dr. Ramon Pacheco Pardo
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. Read more…
28 May 2020 | KF-VUB KOREA CHAIR POLICY BRIEF
Ramon Pacheco Pardo, Jeong-ho Lee
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. This has involved setting up a clear emergency management and communication institutional setting, boosting the resilience of the healthcare system, and ensuring greater transparency and communication with the public. Read more…
12 May 2020 | KF-VUB KOREA CHAIR POLICY BRIEF
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. Read more.
11 May 2020 | KOREA CHAIR EXPLAINS
Dr. Ramon Pacheco Pardo
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. Read more.
April 2020 | KF-VUB KOREA CHAIR POLICY BRIEF
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 Chaebol, that could exploit the pro-engagement attitude of the Moon Administation could help bringing the economic benefits for peace into perspective and unlock the current negotiations. Under the banner of kinship and economic benefits South Korean firms could act in various ways to propose new ventures and coordinate with both Governments. Dialogue between North and South Korea brokered by and between business people would bring a certain amount of pragmatism and a balancing of needs and interests of all parties, which could lead to momentum for better and more significant cooperation on the Peninsula. Read more.
16 April 2020 | KOREA CHAIR EXPLAINS
Dr. Ramon Pacheco Pardo
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. Read more.
April 2020 | KF-VUB KOREA CHAIR POLICY BRIEF
Dr. Ramon Pacheco Pardo
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. Read more.
17 March 2020 | REPORT
Contributors: Ugo Armanini, Dr. Nicola Casarini, Linde Desmaele, Dr. Alice Ekman, Maximilian Ernst, Dr. Mario Esteban, Bruno Hellendorff, Remy Hermez, Dr. Bjorn Jerden, Dr. Oskar Pietrewicz
Editor: Dr. Ramon Pacheco Pardo
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. This trend holds regardless of who is in power in South Korea, with the report covering the second half of the Lee Myung-bak government, the whole Park Geun-hye government, and the first half of the Moon Jae-in government. The trend also holds regardless of the type of government in the EU member states analysed.
To read more:
March 2020 | KF-VUB KOREA CHAIR POLICY BRIEF
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. While President Moon’s traditional supporters remain unimpressed by these developments, they could sway swing voters, making up about 40% of the electorate. The scandals within the Ministry of Justice, together with the economy, unemployment, the peace process with North Korea, and the management of the COVID-19 outbreak, are expected to influence the April 2020 Legislative Elections. Read more…
February 2020 | KF-VUB KOREA CHAIR POLICY BRIEF
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. Read more…
12 February 2020 | KOREA CHAIR EXPLAINS
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 more…
January 2020 | KF-VUB KOREA CHAIR POLICY BRIEF
Dr Ramon Pacheco Pardo
It has become clear in recent months that Seoul and Washington have several important disagreements shaking the foundations of their alliance. Problems include US demands that inter-Korean cooperation does not move ahead as long as North Korea does not take steps towards denuclearisation; Washington’s demands of a five-fold increase in SMA payments by Seoul; the Trump government’s reaction to the Japan-South Korea trade dispute, especially Seoul’s announcement to let GSOMIA expire; and the US raising “competition-related concerns” against the South Korean government after KORUS was revised. Put together, these issues are shaking the foundations of the South Korea-US alliance. They have led to deep-seated unhappiness with the Donald Trump government in Seoul. Read more…
Moon Jae-in’s Policy Towards Multilateral Institutions: Continuity and Change in South Korea’s Global Strategy
18 December 2019 | REPORT
Paula Cantero Dieguez, Linde Desmaele, Maximilian Ernst, Dr Tongfi Kim, Dr Ramon Pacheco Pardo, Riccardo Villa
What drives President Moon Jae-in’s policy towards multilateral institutions? 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.
Security, economics and sustainable development are crucial to any country’s foreign policy, especially the first two. The institutions covered in this report therefore include the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO), peacekeeping, and the nuclear non-proliferation regime in the area of security; the Financial Stability Board (FSB) and G20, the Basel Committee for Banking Supervision (BCBS) and Bank for International Settlements (BIS), and the World Trade Organisation (WTO) in the area of economics; and climate change, the World Health Organisation (WHO), and the World Bank and the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development’s Development Assistance Committee (OECD DAC) in the area of sustainable development. Read the full report here.
December 2019 | KF-VUB KOREA CHAIR POLICY BRIEF
Ramon Pacheco Pardo
‘Peace through strength’ is a key driver behind President Moon Jae-in’s security and defence policy. It has two components. The national security component refers to the Republic of Korea Armed Forces achieving strategic autonomy and Seoul strengthening national military sovereignty. This does not imply termination of the South Korea-United States alliance, but it does mean Seoul taking increasing responsibility to protect itself. The foreign policy component refers to reducing reliance on the South Korea-United States alliance and boosting deterrence of North Korea and China. This is meant to reflect a change in the geostrategic landscape from a South Korean perspective. Changes include an ongoing ‘fear of abandonment’ by the United States, unresolved problematic relations with North Korea, and China’s growing assertiveness. Read more…
November 2019 | KF-VUB KOREA CHAIR POLICY BRIEF
Ramon Pacheco Pardo
EU’s ‘critical engagement’ policy towards North Korea needs to make way for a credible engagement policy suited to strategic partners South Korea’s and the US’ current approach. To move towards its key aims, the EU should continue to implement engagement activities, such as North Korea – United States dialogue facilitation by Sweden. It can restore suspended activities such as educational and cultural exchanges, and make bold moves such as supporting private sector engagement with Pyongyang. It can further raise its profile in Korean Peninsula and Asian security affairs by appointing an advisory committee and even a special envoy for Korean Peninsula security. The renewal of three of the EU’s key institutions and bodies, coupled with a trend towards greater Europeanisation of the bloc’s foreign policy, offers a unique opportunity to rethink Brussels’ policy towards North Korea. Read more…
October 2019 | KF-VUB KOREA CHAIR POLICY BRIEF
When Moon Jae-in’s government first took office, the situation on the Korean Peninsula was overcast with dark clouds of war. President Moon has dedicated many efforts towards his North Korea policy for a peaceful resolution of the North Korean nuclear issue and a restoration of inter-Korean relations. As a result, there has been quite a number of changes and developments in inter-Korean relations. First, the Moon government has worked to remove the actual military threat on the peninsula and has prepared a turning point for peace and improvements in inter-Korean relations. Second, the Moon government had led North Korea into inter-Korean and international dialogue. Third, various channels of dialogue between the two Koreas were created and inter-Korean communication was normalised. Fourth, ethnic homogeneity was restored and inter-Korean exchange and cooperation was initiated. Although inter-Korean relations show a momentary lull as of now due to the recent missile tests by North Korea, more developments and results are expected in inter-Korean and North Korea-US relations in the second half of the Moon government. Read more…
September 2019 | KF-VUB KOREA CHAIR POLICY BRIEF
The Republic of Korea and NATO have had an Individual Cooperation Programme (IPCP) in place since 2012 which mainly focuses on security. It is a relationship in an environment where competing great powers, the United States, China, and Russia, are attempting to cast a sphere of influence in East Asia. The ROK is carefully navigating these competing diplomatic spats during a time where the threat of a nuclear North Korea is ever more dangerous. This policy brief recommends that the ROK should deepen its relationship with NATO due to the benefits both parties could offer each other. This includes having a strategic ally in the Northeast Asian region and the backing of and access to resources of the 29 members of the military alliance. Read more…
July 2019 | KF-VUB KOREA CHAIR POLICY BRIEF
Prompted by the exposed vulnerability of its highly connected society after North Korea’s cyberattacks in recent years, South Korea has set out to improve its cybersecurity infrastructure. Whilst important steps have been taken to outline a national cybersecurity strategy, a further risk assessment shows that a considerable threat remains and that South Korea stands to benefit from integrating cybersecurity into its international security cooperation agenda. Improving intelligence sharing and organization should be prioritized considering the country’s omission from the Convention on Cyber Crime, and the common international incentive of curbing North Korean offensive cyber capabilities makes such policy highly feasible. Read more…
1 July 2019 | KOREA CHAIR EXPLAINS
Dr Ramon Pacheco Pardo
On Sunday, President Donald Trump became the first sitting US president to step into North Korea. In a historic move, Trump crossed over the military demarcation line separating the two Koreas across the DMZ and into the North Korean side. After a brief chat with Chairman Kim Jong-un, they joined President Moon Jae-in on the South Korean side for a trilateral meeting. In what was also a remarkable moment, a US president and a North Korean leader, thus, held talks on the southern side of the DMZ. Regardless of the theatrics that come with Trump’s actions, these extraordinary scenes are further proof that diplomacy still dominates Korean Peninsula affairs for the time being. Read more…
One year after the Singapore summit: an analysis of the views of the publics of the US, China, Japan and Russia about the situation in the Korean Peninsula
21 June 2019 | REPORT
Linde Desmaele, Maximilian Ernst, Dr Tongfi Kim, Dr Ramon Pacheco Pardo
On the first anniversary of the Singapore summit between President Donald Trump and Chairman Kim Jong-un, the KF-VUB Korea Chair published the results of a survey on American, Chinese, Japanese and Russian views of US-North Korea and inter-Korean relations (available here). We wanted to know what the publics of these four countries think about the situation in the Korean Peninsula twelve months after this historic event. In this report, we analyse the reasons behind their views of the current situation in the Korean Peninsula.
US: Up to Donald Trump to solve the North Korean conundrum
by Linde Desmaele
China: The Chinese are optimists
by Maximilian Ernst
Japan: the two Koreas’ distant neighbour
by Dr. Tongfi Kim
Russia: the Koreas have a friend
by Dr. Ramon Pacheco Pardo
19 June 2019 | REPORT
Maximilian Ernst, Eliana Kim, Dr Ramon Pacheco Pardo, Dr Kee B. Park
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.
In this study, we seek to assess the current burden of traumatic injuries in the DPRK and analyze the injury care capacity in place to manage them. Furthermore, we also estimate the projected surge in injuries in the DPRK and its economic con- sequences in the near future. Finally, we propose a road map for multilateral assistance for strengthening the injury care system in the DPRK.
Getting Back to Singapore, US-North Korea Relations on the Anniversary of the First Trump-Kim Summit
June 2019 | KF-VUB KOREA CHAIR POLICY BRIEF
Getting Back to Singapore (Issue 2019/06)
Dr. John Delury
If Singapore opened the door to real progress, why do we find ourselves, a year later, seemingly stuck once again in the all-too-familiar quagmire of frustrating negotiations with North Korea? Since Singapore, Trump frequently comes back to the refrain of doing a deal with Kim, and when he talks about “the relationship”, he refers to his personal relationship with Kim Jong-un. For Kim Jong-un, on the other hand, the relationship in need of transformation is not with the person of Donald Trump, but with the United States of America. Kim has to look beyond Trump and beyond a “deal”. Trump is trying to negotiate what is, essentially, a business deal whereby the United States buys out North Korea’s nukes, at an acceptable cost, by leveraging the pressure of sanctions and promise of foreign investment. But Kim is not looking for a deal in that sense. Kim is trying to navigate a new relationship wherein the United States views and treats North Korea as a friend. Changing the relationship takes time—it cannot be done in a meeting or two. Read more.
US-North Korea Relations on the Anniversary of the First Trump-Kim Summit (Issue 2019/07)
Dr. Robert E. Kelly
A year after the first summit between US President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un, little has changed in the strategic situation in Korea. The North has retained its nuclear weapons, missiles, and forward conventional force structure, while the US has similarly given up nothing substantial. The Korean status quo is deeply enduring and not simply subject to presidential whim. The stalemate is due to both sides’ refusal to make genuinely painful concessions. The US has repeatedly demand complete, verifiable, irreversible disarmament upfront for vague future guarantees. The North will not foolishly do that, but Pyongyang’s offers have been similarly fanciful. Engagement boosters will argue that talks curtailed war in 2017 and are progress in themselves. But Trump ginned up that crisis unnecessarily, and talking to the North is just process not substance. On substance, very little has changed since Trump entered office, no matter the war-threats of 2017 and flattery of 2018. This will persist as long the political and strategic gaps between the two sides are enormous. It would be better to resume talks at the expert working level to forge small, manageable deals in the place of all-or-nothing summits. Read more.
12 June 2019 | REPORT
Dr Ramon Pacheco Pardo, Dr Tongfi Kim, Linde Desmaele, Maximilian Ernst
One year has passed since the historic summit between US President Donald Trump and North KoreanChairman Kim Jong-un on June 12 in Singapore. The summit marked the first meeting between the sittingleaders of both countries. There were also three inter-Korean summits between South Korean President Moon Jae-in and Kim last year; only two had been held before since the end of the Korean War. Twelvemonths after the Singapore summit, however, diplomacy in the Korean Peninsula seems to have stalled following the failure of Trump and Kim to reach an agreement during their February 27-28 summit in Hanoi.
In this context, what do the publics of the US, China, Japan and Russia think about the situation in theKorean Peninsula? After all, these four powers have a keen interest in its geopolitics and Northeast Asia more generally. And public opinion has the potential to influence foreign policy decisions. With this survey, we shed light on the views that the publics of these four countries hold regarding the present and futureof the Korean Peninsula. The focus of the survey is inter-Korean relations, US-North Korea relations and policy towards North Korea.
The survey by Ipsos Mori was carried out in the period from 24th May – 4th June. It involved 1004 interviews in China, 1000 in Japan, 1099 in Russia and 1096 inthe United States, respectively.
May 2019 | KF-VUB KOREA CHAIR POLICY BRIEF
Paula Cantero Dieguez
South Korea has become the first country in the world to launch commercial 5G services on 3 April. 5G economic benefits are estimated to include worldwide revenues of €225 billion by 2025 and a wealth of job creation. The US, China, South Korea and the EU are economic powerhouses vying to lead the unfolding global 5G market. US and China are strongly positioned in the current telecom market, but their growing 5G competition is spilling over into geopolitical competition. Wary of being swept up in US-China rivalry, the Moon government is banking on building strong 5G market competitiveness and doubling down on the IT sector which represents a critical economic growth engine domestically.
April 2019 | KF-VUB KOREA CHAIR POLICY BRIEF
Dr. Tongfi Kim
President Trump is reportedly planning to demand payment from host countries of U.S. troops covering the entire cost of stationing plus 50 percent. Seoul and Tokyo should treat this so-called “Cost Plus 50” as a wake-up call to deal collaboratively with the threats their U.S. alliances are facing. South Korea and Japan need to coordinate their Special Measures Agreement negotiation strategies, not just to save money, but to preserve the long-term viability of U.S. alliances in East Asia. Above all, they must avoid buying U.S. favor at the expense of each other and appeasing U.S. adversaries such as China and Russia.
March 2019 | KF-VUB KOREA CHAIR POLICY BRIEF
Since entering office, US President Donald Trump has been determined to withdraw US troops from South Korea. In May 2018, he reportedly ordered the Pentagon to prepare options to draw down US Forces Korea (USFK). He also pledged to halt US-South Korea war games, and on his watch, the Pentagon replaced existing military drills with smaller, less expensive ones. US foreign policy pundits and lawmakers have expressed concern about these actions, citing them as another example of Trump’s lack of geopolitical insight and a dangerous concession to Pyongyang and Beijing. But albeit for reasons slightly different than those put forward by the White House, there is a case to be made that removing US troops from South Korea could be an important step in reaffirming Washington’s leadership over the region.
6th March 2019 | ASK EUROPE’S KOREA EXPERTS
Dr. Tongfi Kim & Dr. Ramon Pacheco Pardo
In the aftermath of the second summit between US President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un, we asked a group of leading Korean Peninsula and Northeast Asia security experts based in Europe for their assessment of the outcome (the responses were collected before 4 March 18:00, Central European Time). A total of sixteen experts participated in the survey. Overall, the experts are optimistic about the continuation of diplomatic engagement between the United States and North Korea, as well as between both Koreas. However, their assessments of the two sides’ bargaining positions vary. While there is an agreement that the US is at least partially responsible for the lack of a deal in Hanoi, there are divisions regarding who is in a stronger position following the summit. View the experts here.
28 February 2019 | KOREA CHAIR EXPLAINS
Dr Ramon Pacheco Pardo, Dr Tongfi Kim, Linde Desmaele, Maximilian Ernst
This edition of Korea Chair Explains offers the views of South Korea, the US, Japan and China on the Hanoi Trump-Kim Summit of 27-28 February 2019.
The lack of agreement in the Vietnam summit is a significant but not unsurmountable bump in the road towards inter-Korean reconciliation, which remains South Korea’s key goal. Seoul had prepared to commemorate the 100thanniversary of the Korean Independence movement with a US-North Korea peace declaration wrapped. This would have been hugely symbolic, since it would have allowed President Moon to confidently declare the start of a new era in the Korean Peninsula. Nonetheless, the fact that both the US and North Korea have indicated their willingness to continue negotiations is a relief for Seoul. It means that the diplomatic process continue.
February 2019 | KF-VUB KOREA CHAIR POLICY BRIEF
Over recent months, speculations about the venue for the next Trump-Kim summit were ubiquitous. On February 6th, President Trump announced during the State of the Union Address that the summit would take place on February 27-28 in Vietnam and, on February 9th, he confirmed Hanoi as the venue via Twitter. The other candidate in Vietnam was the coastal city Da Nang. The advantages of Vietnam are that the country has stable diplomatic relations with both Washington and Pyongyang and that it can be reached by Kim’s own airplane. In addition, media commentary emphasises the symbolic value of Hanoi and Vietnam for North Korea’s future. Vietnam, a former adversary of the US, has become a partner with shared interests in the South China Sea. In the mid-1980s, Vietnam underwent drastic yet successful economic reforms, called Doi Moi, which can be seen as an alternative to the Chinese model of reform and opening. Vietnam’s key lesson for North Korea is that reforms, economic development, and integration into international organisations represented a path for Vietnam to fundamentally improve relations with neighbouring countries and the United States.
January 2019 | KF-VUB KOREA CHAIR POLICY BRIEF
Dr. Ramon Pacheco Pardo
The goal of inter-Korean reconciliation and eventual peace is within reach. But the process to get there will take time. President Moon Jae-in understands that the road to end over sixty years of inter-Korean hostility and achieve ‘permanent’ peace is a long one. This is why his focus is on creating the conditions for inter-Korean diplomacy to continue beyond his five-year term in office. The military and economic engagement measures that Seoul has put in place, as well as those that the Moon government hopes to launch, are meant to create the conditions for the next South Korean president to have no option but to continue them. Furthermore, President Moon hopes that his quest for eventual peace will make the US accept diplomacy as the de facto option for its North Korea policy. For his government believes that ending US-North Korea hostility is a prerequisite to permanent peace.
December 2018 | KF-VUB KOREA CHAIR POLICY BRIEF
Dr. Yoon Young-kwan
Despite the historic U.S.-North Korea summit in June, little progress was made on denuclearizing North Korea due to the clash between the U.S. and North Korea on the formula of denuclearization. Both sides are demanding the other to do its work upfront. Due to the inability to resolve this dilemma, North Korea’s nuclear problem has gotten worse during the last three decades. In order to make a breakthrough, North Korea needs to come to the table as soon as possible recognizing that the political momentum for a negotiated solution in the U.S. may not last long due to President Trump’s domestic problems. The U.S. needs to take a more pragmatic approach. While keeping the pressure with economic sanctions, it needs to take concrete measures of political engagement toward North Korea. This would contribute significantly to raising mutual trust and providing a more favorable political environment for negotiating a solution.
November 2018 | KF-VUB KOREA CHAIR POLICY BRIEF
Dr. Ramon Pacheco Pardo
South Korea’s foreign policy has a global dimension, with priority given to development assistance, green growth and multilateralism. Taking a page from his two predecessors, President Moon Jae-in is focusing the global component of his foreign policy on these three issues. In the area of development assistance, South Korea emphasizes knowledge sharing. It serves as an example to developing countries across the world. But Seoul also strives to become an agenda-setter in this area, building on the Busan Principles of Aid Effectiveness and Busan Global Partnership. When it comes to green growth, South Korea self-styles as a global leader. The Seoul-based Global Green Growth Institute and South Korea’s leading role in the Partnering for Green Growth and the Global Goals 2030 are central to the Moon government’s policy in this area. As for multilateralism, the Moon government wants both Koreas to bid together to host the 2032 Olympic Games. Seoul also remains supportive of the UN, WTO and other multilateral institutions.
October 2018 | KF-VUB KOREA CHAIR POLICY BRIEF
Dr. Steven Everts
As Brussels is preparing itself for the 12th ASEM Summit and the EU-ROK Summit that will take place on 18- 19 October, this is a good moment to take stock of the partnership and see how the EU and ROK can optimise their cooperation in the ASEM framework. At a time of accelerating global change and threats to the rules-based international system, the EU and South Korea have a massive joint interest to step up their cooperation and maximise the opportunities of the ASEM framework.
15 October 2018 | REPORT
Dr Ramon Pacheco Pardo, Linde Desmaele, Maximilian Ernst
The strategic partnership between the European Union and the Republic of Korea is strong and solid but is yet to reach its full potential. This is understandable considering bilateral relations were only upgraded to a fully-fledged strategic partnership in 2010, with agreements covering the political and security pillars entering into force, respectively, in 2014 and 2016. In this report, we identify nine areas in which cooperation between the ROK and the EU could and, we believe, should be strengthened in the near future to help safeguard both parties’ interests at the global level.
20 September 2018 | KOREA CHAIR EXPLAINS
Dr Ramon Pacheco Pardo, Dr Tongfi Kim, Linde Desmaele, Max Ernst
This edition of Korea Chair Explains offers the views of South Korea, Japan, the US and China on the third Inter-Korean Summit of 18-20 September 2018.
- South Korea’s views: Another step forward towards inter-Korean reconciliation
By Dr Ramon Pacheco Pardo
- Japan’s views: Getting ready to make the best of it?
By Dr Tongfi Kim
- America’s views: The ball is in the US court
By Linde Desmaele
- China’s views: Promising opportunities but also challenges to stay relevant
By Max Ernst
September 2018 | KF-VUB KOREA CHAIR POLICY BRIEF
Dr. Victor Cha
What is both amazing and depressing about the diplomacy following the Singapore Summit are the constants that have re-emerged following a period of the most dramatic change on the peninsula in decades. North Korea still pursues its byungjin strategy while the US still pursues CVID. China undercuts economic pressure on the North through commerce, while South Korea presses ahead with an inter-Korean cooperation agenda ahead of denuclearization. And no one seems to care about human rights abuses propagated by the regime. It’s unclear whether a second Trump-Kim summit can break this deadlock but policymakers must consider some innovative changes in our approach going forward, as well as focus on the most important variable for change in North Korea – the proliferation of markets.
12 September 2018 | REPORT
Dr Ramon Pacheco Pardo, Dr John Hemmings and Dr Tat Yan Kong
Dr John Hemmings is Director of the Asia Studies Centre at the Henry Jackson Society and an Adjunct Fellow at the Centre for Strategic and International Studies.
Dr Tat Yan Kong is Reader in Comparative Politics & Development Studies at SOAS, University of London and Co-Director of the London Asia Pacific Centre for Social Science.
Dr Ramon Pacheco Pardo is the KF-VUB Korea Chair at Vrije Universiteit Brussel and Reader in International Studies at King’s College London.
20 August 2018 | KOREA CHAIR EXPLAINS
Dr Ramon Pacheco Pardo
South Korean media report that the US has proposed to North Korea the possibility of shipping half of its nuclear warheads to the United Kingdom, where they would be dismantled. Reports also state that US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has requested the United Kingdom to provide technical support to North Korea during the dismantlement process. Indeed, discussions taking place in Europe regarding the potential role that European countries could play if and as North Korea takes step towards denuclearization include this very same matter. Technical assistance with the dismantlement of nuclear warheads is one of the areas where Europe could play a significant role.
July 2018 | KF-VUB KOREA CHAIR POLICY BRIEF
Dr. Ramon Pacheco Pardo
South Korean President Moon Jae-in is in the middle of a trip to India and Singapore. This visits fits within Seoul’s ‘New Southern Policy’, an effort by the Moon government to strengthen economic and diplomatic links with ASEAN and India. On the economic front, President Moon seeks to increase trade and investment between South Korea and its southern neighbours. Previous South Korean governments signed free trade agreements with both ASEAN and India, but increasing protectionism in the US and trade sanctions from China in 2017 convinced Seoul that it should further diversify its economic links. As for diplomacy, South Korea sees ASEAN, especially, and India as key partners to bring North Korea in from the cold. They can provide diplomatic support for President Moon’s engagement efforts, and Vietnam can serve as a model if and as North Korea continues to implement economic reform.
June 2018 | KF-VUB KOREA CHAIR POLICY BRIEF
Dr. Jung H. Pak
Last fall and winter, the world was tense with the real possibilities of a military conflict breaking out on the Korean Peninsula as a result of Kim Jong-un’s testing of intercontinental ballistic missiles, the North’s sixth and largest nuclear test, and the rhetorical war with U.S. President Donald Trump. While the threat of another Korean war seems to be in the rear-view mirror, for now, we have to remember that Kim has been expanding, sharpening, and demonstrating other tools of coercive diplomacy, including selective engagement, cyberattacks, and chemical weapons. He has been deploying these tools to suppress criticism of the regime, sow division within South Korea and among U.S. allies and regional stakeholders, and shape an external environment favorable for reinforcing Kim’s legitimacy and North Korea’s claimed status as a nuclear weapons power.
13 June 2018 | KOREA CHAIR EXPLAINS
Dr Ramon Pacheco Pardo, Dr Tongfi Kim, Dr Janka Oertel, Linde Desmaele
This edition of Korea Chair Explains offers the views of South Korea, the U.S., Japan and China on the U.S.-North Korea Summit of 12 June 2018.
South Korean President Moon Jae-in called yesterday’s summit between US President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un the ‘summit of the century’. From a South Korean perspective, the Trump-Kim meeting was indeed a make-or-break moment. Had the summit failed, inter-Korean rapprochement would have continued but it would also have been significantly slowed down. But the fact that the summit declaration, and subsequent press conference by Trump, make clear that US diplomacy will continue provides the Moon government with the necessary back-up to carry on with its rapprochement policy. Seoul is indeed pleased with this.
28 May 2018 | KOREA CHAIR EXPLAINS
Dr Ramon Pacheco Pardo
South Korean President Moon Jae-in and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un held their second summit on Saturday. It is no exaggeration to state that this meeting was as, if not more, significant than their first summit that took place less than a month before. Saturday’s meeting was the first-ever inter-Korea summit that did not require weeks if not months of preparation. Instead, it was quickly arranged in a few hours following a conversation between Moon and Kim using their recently-established hotline. The two Koreas thus sent a message to the rest of the world – they can meet any time they wish and at short notice if necessary, and they will meet regardless of the state of relations between North Korea and the US. In other words, the two Koreas have decided to openly take control of developments in the Korean Peninsula, and to push for engagement.
May 2018 | KF-VUB KOREA CHAIR POLICY BRIEF
Dr. Ramon Pacheco Pardo
One year from his election, Moon Jae-in is a very popular president with approval ratings hovering around 80 per cent. The reason for his popularity is, to an extent, fairly simple: he has followed the promises that he made during last year’s election campaign. This refers both to domestic affairs and inter-Korean relations. With regards to the former, President Moon has been implementing a series of job boosting measures. He wants to address a perceived lack of good-quality jobs. Furthermore, his government is seeking to improve social equality. President Moon is thus addressing one of the major grievances among many South Koreans – namely the perception that those in power play by a different set of rules. On inter-Korean relations, President Moon is implementing an engagement policy that has helped to ease tensions in the Korean Peninsula and put South Korea in the driving seat.
27 April 2018 | KOREA CHAIR EXPLAINS
Dr. Ramon Pacheco Pardo, Dr. Tongfi Kim, Linde Desmaele, Dr. Janka Oertel
This edition assess South Korean, Japanese, American and Chinese views of the Inter-Korean Summit in April 2018.
- South Korean Views of the Inter-Korean Summit: Hope for Peace but also Caution by Dr. Ramon Pacheco Pardo
- Japanese Views of the Inter-Korean Summit: Left Out in the Cold? by Dr. Tongfi Kim
- American Views of the Inter-Korean Summit: The tone is set, but the real work has yet to begin by Linde Desmaele
- Chinese Views of the Inter-Korean Summit: Back on Track – for Now by Dr. Janka Oertel
April 2018 | KF-VUB KOREA CHAIR POLICY BRIEF
U.S. President Donald Trump surprised the world by accepting North Korean leader Kim Jong-un’s invitation to talk, thereby setting the scene for potentially the first ever meeting between a North Korean leader and a sitting US president. A Trump-Kim summit, which American officials say will take place this coming May or June at a location yet to be determined, would mark a turning point in US-North Korea relations. After a year of escalating tensions and insults between the two leaders, the prospect of talks seems like a welcome development. Americans have looked at North Korea as the land of lousy options for several decades now, so why not try the unprecedented? Yet, Trump’s diplomatic gamble is not without risk. Previous rounds of negotiations have not led to a major breakthrough and have left both sides disappointed. Meanwhile, the increased sophistication of North Korea’s nuclear program is forcing the US to come up with answers. Therefore, if Trump does not play his cards right and the summit is perceived as a failure, he may well provide further excuse for the US to turn to military options to achieve what diplomacy could seemingly not.
27 March 2018 | KOREA CHAIR EXPLAINS
Dr. Ramon Pacheco Pardo
The announcement that a high-level delegation from North Korea, perhaps including its leader Kim Jong-un or his sister Kim Yo-jong, is currently in China suggests a necessary thaw in relations between both countries. The relationship between Pyongyang and Beijing has been strained since Kim took power in December 2011. But Pyongyang needs the support of Beijing before the first inter-Korean summit in over ten years and a potential summit between Kim and US President Donald Trump. Any agreements coming out of these summits would need Beijing’s acquiescence if not active support for them to be successfully implemented.
9 March 2018 | KOREA CHAIR EXPLAINS
Dr. Ramon Pacheco Pardo
The announcement of a potential summit between US President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un is truly historic. No sitting US president has ever met with North Korea’s leader. Former presidents Bill Clinton and Jimmy Carter only did years after leaving office. But the highest-ranked official to ever meet with North Korea’s leader was then-Secretary of State Madeleine Albright when she travelled to Pyongyang for a summit with then-North Korean leader Kim Jong-il in October 2000. A meeting between President Trump and Kim Jong-un would thus be unprecedented.
March 2018 | KF-VUB KOREA CHAIR POLICY BRIEF
Dr. Tongfi Kim
The shared threat emanating from Pyongyang creates a centripetal force that binds Washington, Tokyo, and Seoul because the three partners need mutual assistance. On the other hand, however, the high stakes involved in the North Korea policy of these states also intensify discord over the means to address the threat, thereby producing a centrifugal force. Policies that hurt each other’s fundamental security interests have to be pursued only with careful consultation with the partners, for both the policies’ effectiveness and for the maintenance of the partnerships. For effective cooperation, the U.S., Japanese, and ROK governments must all embrace the centripetal force of the North Korean threat while being mindful of the centrifugal force.
February 2018 | KF-VUB KOREA CHAIR POLICY BRIEF
Dr Ramon Pacheco Pardo
The Pyeongchang Winter Olympic Games have already served one very important purpose: helping to thaw inter-Korean relations. Since engagement is a key element of President Moon Jae-in’s North Korea policy, it is highly likely that Seoul will continue to seek exchanges with Pyongyang. It is thus up to the Kim Jong-un regime to accept Seoul’s olive branch and contribute to improving inter-Korean relations. With Pyongyang continuing to support – or at least accept – domestic economic reform and marketization, economic and technical support from Seoul is crucial. Indeed, the goodwill that most South Koreans still seem to hold towards their poorer Northern neighbour and the funding that South Korea can provide cannot be matched by any other country. For Seoul, engagement can serve to ease inter-Korean tensions, make it ever-more difficult for Pyongyang to reverse reforms, and put South Korea in the driving seat of Korean Peninsula affairs. Read more…
January 2018 | KF-VUB KOREA CHAIR POLICY BRIEF
Dr Michael Reiterer
The surprising readiness of Kim Jong-un to re-open lines of communications and to participate in the 2018 PyeongChang Olympics could strengthen President Moon who needs to change course from announcement of policies to their implementation to live up to his promise to provide jobs through income and innovation lead growth with the aim of establishing a just and fair society for all Koreans. Enhanced EU-Korean cooperation could contribute to economic and political stability and security providing substance to the 55 years’ jubilee.