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Korea Chair Publications

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

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

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