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Korea Chair Publications

The KF-VUB Korea Chair issues a number of topical briefs and explainers on a regular basis.

North Korea’s Nuclear Problem: A More Pragmatic Approach Will Help

North Korea’s Nuclear Problem: A More Pragmatic Approach Will Help

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.

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Moon and South Korea’s Global Role: Evolution Not Revolution

Moon and South Korea’s Global Role: Evolution Not Revolution

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.

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EU-ROK relations: Leveraging ASEM in uncertain times

EU-ROK relations: Leveraging ASEM in uncertain times

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.

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EU-ROK Relations: Putting the strategic partnership to work

EU-ROK Relations: Putting the strategic partnership to work

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.​

Read the full report here or the executive summary here.

Inter-Korean Summit in Pyongyang Explained: The Key Players’ Views

Inter-Korean Summit in Pyongyang Explained: The Key Players’ Views

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

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The more things change…

The more things change…

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.

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Negotiating the peace: Diplomacy on the Korean Peninsula

Negotiating the peace: Diplomacy on the Korean Peninsula

12 September 2018 | REPORT
Dr Ramon Pacheco Pardo, Dr John Hemmings and Dr Tat Yan Kong

The KF-VUB Korea Chair, Henry Jackson Society and London Asia Pacific Centre for Social Science launched a new report yesterday on “Negotiating the peace: Diplomacy on the Korean Peninsula”, co-authored by Dr Ramon Pacheco Pardo, Dr John Hemmings and Dr Tat Yan Kong. It presents the outcome of a two-panel round table that was hosted by the School of Oriental and African Studies, Kings College London and the Henry Jackson Society earlier this year. As both Koreas meet for a third time next week and North Korea and the USA discuss to continue to meet bilaterally in an attempt to resolve the nuclear issue, it is important to understand what every member of the Six-Party Talks – the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (North Korea), the USA, the Republic of Korea (South Korea), China, Japan and Russia – wants to gain from the negotiations and their negotiating strategies.
 
This new country-by-country analysis assesses each player’s negotiating aims and objectives and, in this way, reveals where opportunities and challenges might lie in the process of North Korean peace-bargaining. It identifies that the Libya Model won’t work and any process will involve step-by-step disarmament for sanctions relief. If incentives are right, North Korea could be willing to swap nukes for cash. A peace regime and substantial economic support will probably come near the end of the process. Thus, full-scale economic development will have to wait for sanctions-relief to be close to completion.

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.

Europe and the Potential Dismantlement of North Korea’s Nuclear Warheads

Europe and the Potential Dismantlement of North Korea’s Nuclear Warheads

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.

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Foreign Policy Looks South: Seoul’s ‘New Southern Policy’

Foreign Policy Looks South: Seoul’s ‘New Southern Policy’

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.

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Kim Jong-un’s Tools of Coercion

Kim Jong-un’s Tools of Coercion

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.

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U.S.-North Korea Summit Explained: the Key Players’ Views

U.S.-North Korea Summit Explained: the Key Players’ Views

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.

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The Second Moon-Kim Summit: the Koreas Decide to Take Control

The Second Moon-Kim Summit: the Koreas Decide to Take Control

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.

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Jobs, Fairness and Peace: the First Anniversary of the Moon Government

Jobs, Fairness and Peace: the First Anniversary of the Moon Government

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.

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Inter-Korean Summit Explained: the Key Players’ Views

Inter-Korean Summit Explained: the Key Players’ Views

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

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From Nuclear Threats to Nuclear Talks:  a Big Win for President Donald Trump?

From Nuclear Threats to Nuclear Talks: a Big Win for President Donald Trump?

April 2018 | KF-VUB KOREA CHAIR POLICY BRIEF
Linde Desmaele

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.

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North Korea’s High-Level Delegation China Visit: a Necessary Step

North Korea’s High-Level Delegation China Visit: a Necessary Step

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.

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The Potential Trump-Kim Summit: History in the Making

The Potential Trump-Kim Summit: History in the Making

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.

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Centripetal and Centrifugal Forces of North Korean Threat on the U.S.-Japan-ROK Cooperation

Centripetal and Centrifugal Forces of North Korean Threat on the U.S.-Japan-ROK Cooperation

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.

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From Pyeongchang to Pyongyang

From Pyeongchang to Pyongyang

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.

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Candlelight, Moonlight, Olympics: Korea in Transition

Candlelight, Moonlight, Olympics: Korea in Transition

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.

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© Korea Chair – Vrije Universiteit Brussel – 2018