Scott A. Snyder

Senior Fellow for Korea Studies and Director of the Program on U.S.-Korea Policy


Politics and foreign policy of South Korea and North Korea; U.S.-Korea relations; Northeast Asian security; and U.S.-Asia relations


Scott Snyder is senior fellow for Korea studies and director of the program on U.S.-Korea policy at the Council on Foreign Relations (CFR), where he had served as an adjunct fellow from 2008 to 2011. Prior to joining CFR, Snyder was a senior associate in the international relations program of The Asia Foundation, where he founded and directed the Center for U.S.-Korea Policy and served as The Asia Foundation's representative in Korea (2000-2004). He was also a senior associate at Pacific Forum CSIS. Snyder has worked as an Asia specialist in the research and studies program of the U.S. Institute of Peace and as acting director of Asia Society's contemporary affairs program.  Snyder was a Pantech visiting fellow at Stanford University's Shorenstein Asia-Pacific Research Center during 2005–2006, and received an Abe fellowship, administered by the Social Sciences Research Council, in 1998–99. He has provided advice to NGOs and humanitarian organizations active in North Korea and serves as co-chair of the advisory council of the National Committee on North Korea. 

Snyder has authored numerous book chapters on aspects of Korean politics and foreign policy and Asian regionalism and is the author of The Japan-South Korea Identity Clash: East Asian Security and the United States (with Brad Glosserman, 2015), China's Rise and the Two Koreas: Politics, Economics, Security (2009), Paved With Good Intentions: The NGO Experience in North Korea (co-editor, 2003), and Negotiating on the Edge: North Korean Negotiating Behavior (1999). 

Snyder is the co-editor of North Korea in Transition: Politics, Economy, and Society (Rowman and Littlefield, October 2012), and the editor of Middle-Power Korea: Contributions to the Global Agenda (Council on Foreign Relations, June 2015), Global Korea: South Korea's Contributions to International Security (Council on Foreign Relations, October 2012) and The U.S.-South Korea Alliance: Meeting New Security Challenges (Lynne Rienner Publishers, March 2012). He served as the project director for CFR's Independent Task Force on policy toward the Korean Peninsula. He currently writes for the blog, "Asia Unbound."

Snyder received a BA from Rice University and an MA from the regional studies East Asia program at Harvard University and was a Thomas G. Watson fellow at Yonsei University in South Korea.

The U.S.-ROK Alliance: Lynchpin for Managing Stability in the Asia-Pacific

The U.S.-ROK alliance has succeeded beyond expectation in its evolution from a security-focused, military-dominated relationship dedicated to deterring North Korea to a multifaceted, comprehensive alliance. The relationship now faces two new challenges that require careful coordination and effective management: shifts in the geopolitical environment resulting from China’s rising power and South Korea’s evolving conception of itself as a middle power. U.S. rebalancing policy prioritizes Asia, but assumes levels of continuity in the security situation on the Korean peninsula that are not guaranteed. Effective management of these issues will require more time and political attention, and will be critical to maintaining a robust alliance amidst geopolitical uncertainly. With the Project on the U.S.-ROK Alliance, CFR’s Program on U.S.-Korea policy considers the impact of geopolitical shifts in relative influence of the United States and China on how to coordinate policy toward North Korea; the challenging regional security dilemmas South Korea faces as a result of rising nationalism in both China and Japan; the impact of South Korea’s middle power role for U.S.-ROK cooperation; and the potential strategic and policy implications of regional developments, including China’s rise and U.S. rebalancing policy, for South Korea. Through study group and roundtable meetings, articles, and blog posts on Asia Unbound, this project aims to identify issues, opportunities, and challenges in the U.S.-ROK alliance.

This project is made possible through the support of the Korea Foundation and the Smith Richardson Foundation.

Middle Power Korea: Contributions to the Global Agenda

South Korea has used its “hosting power” in recent years as a stepping stone for its ambitious and constructive efforts to contribute substantively on the international stage. While its hosting of international gatherings has revealed clear constraints on South Korea’s ability to shape the international agenda or to serve as an intermediary on conflicts involving larger powers, these roles have also provided South Korea with valuable experience on the international stage on niche issues on which the country appears poised to make a difference. Middle Power Korea: Contributions to the Global Agenda aims to examine South Korea’s role as a middle power, its contributions and ability to influence international institutions, and its prospects for cooperation with the United States. This forthcoming book focuses on four areas in which South Korea has expanded its capabilities, made efforts to influence the global agenda, and shown potential to play a greater role: international development, financial stability, nuclear governance, and green growth.

This project is made possible through the support of the Korea Foundation.

Featured Publications

Other Report

Global Korea

Authors: Scott Bruce, John Hemmings, Balbina Y. Hwang, Terence Roehrig, and Scott A. Snyder

South Korea has emerged as a major contributor to international security, participating in a wide range of activities far from the Korean peninsula. CFR scholars outline several steps that will ensure that South Korea can sustain this broadened role.

See more in South Korea; Regional Security

All Publications


China-Korea: A Complex China-ROK Partnership

Authors: Scott A. Snyder and See-won Byun
Comparative Connections

The September China-South Korea summit in Beijing catalyzed the resumption of trilateral talks with Japan in October and the launch of the China-South Korea free trade agreement in December. Beijing’s Korean engagement also included a visit to North Korea in October by Chinese Politburo Standing Committee member Liu Yunshan for 70th anniversary celebrations of the founding of the Workers’ Party of Korea (WPK). Despite new initiatives to expand economic cooperation, Pyongyang’s apparent defiance of Chinese diplomatic efforts on denuclearization suggests further difficulties in China-North Korea relations.

See more in China; South Korea; Diplomacy and Statecraft; Regional Security


North Korea's H-bomb and the Costs of American Indifference

Author: Scott A. Snyder
Washington Examiner

The White House moved quickly to debunk North Korea's exaggerated claim that a Jan. 5 "artificial earthquake" at the site where Pyongyang had conducted three previous nuclear tests was a breakthrough detonation of a hydrogen bomb. The size of the blast was similar to that of North Korea's January 2013 test and had a yield thousands of times lower than the yield expected of a hydrogen blast. But in downplaying North Korea's claim so as not to feed Kim Jong-un's cravings for international attention, the Obama administration risks underplaying the growing danger posed by North Korea's unchecked efforts to develop nuclear and missile capabilities needed to threaten a nuclear strike on the United States.


See more in North Korea; United States; Proliferation; Diplomacy and Statecraft

Policy Innovation Memorandum No. 54

Addressing North Korea’s Nuclear Problem

Author: Scott A. Snyder

Since defecting from Six Party negotiations on denuclearization in 2008, North Korea has pursued nuclear development unchecked by international constraints. Scott A. Snyder outlines steps the United States should take to lead coordinated multilateral action opposing North Korea’s nuclear status, while still leaving a denuclearized North Korea a route for regime survival. 

See more in North Korea; Nonproliferation, Arms Control, and Disarmament


China-Korea Relations:Prospects for a Strategic Partnership?

Authors: Scott A. Snyder and See-won Byun
Comparative Connections

Scott Snyder and See-won Byun write that President Park Geun-hye's participation in China's seventieth anniversary celebrations of the end of World War II in September affirmed Seoul's ties with Beijing. The escalation of inter-Korean tensions in late August, however, revealed the dilemmas underlying Seoul's regional diplomacy that continue to undermine coordination on North Korea and other security challenges.

See more in China; South Korea; Diplomacy and Statecraft


Brad Glosserman and Scott Snyder: How to Defeat the 'Korea Fatigue'

Authors: Scott A. Snyder and Brad Glosserman
Asahi Shimbun

The Japan-South Korea relationship steadily improved in advance of parallel ceremonies marking the 50th anniversary of the normalization of their diplomatic relations on June 22. In recent weeks, ministerial-level bilateral contacts resumed between economic and defense ministers, and the top leaders made positive remarks about prospects for the relationship.

See more in Japan; South Korea; Diplomacy and Statecraft

Other Report

Middle-Power Korea

Authors: Colin I. Bradford, Toby Dalton, Brendan Howe, Jill Kosch O’Donnell, Andrew O’Neil, and Scott A. Snyder

South Korean opinion leaders have increasingly investigated the idea of the ROK as a middle power as a primary framework for evaluating the opportunities and constraints arising from its emerging international role. The essays commissioned in this volume provide an initial evaluation of South Korean efforts to make substantive contributions to the international agenda as a middle power.

See more in Asia and Pacific; Politics and Strategy


The Japan-South Korea Identity Clash

Authors: Scott A. Snyder and Brad Glosserman

Japan and South Korea are Western-style democracies with open-market economies committed to the rule of law. They are also U.S. allies. Yet despite their shared interests, shared values, and geographic proximity, divergent national identities have driven a wedge between them. Drawing on decades of expertise, Scott A. Snyder and Brad Glosserman investigate the roots of this split and its ongoing threat to the region and the world.

See more in Asia and Pacific; United States; Regional Security

Other Report

The U.S. Rebalance and the Seoul Process: How to Align U.S. and ROK Visions for Cooperation in East Asia

Authors: Scott A. Snyder and Woo Jung-yeop

Scott Snyder, senior fellow for Korea Studies and director of the Program on U.S.-Korea Policy, and Woo Jung-yeop, research fellow at the Asan Institute for Policy Studies, suggest that Washington should support the Seoul Process under NAPCI and Seoul should support the U.S. rebalance, given the two allies' overlapping goals of promoting cooperation and strengthening respect for international norms in Asia. 

See more in Asia and Pacific; Politics and Strategy

Policy Innovation Memorandum No. 49

Breaking the Stalemate in U.S.-ROK Nuclear Cooperation Negotiations

Author: Scott A. Snyder

South Korea and the United States have reached an impasse in bilateral talks on nuclear cooperation. Senior Fellow Scott Snyder argues that the United States should extend the current agreement and make a follow-on agreement contingent on the results of an ongoing study on feasibility and proliferation risks of South Korea's right to enrich and reprocess U.S.-origin nuclear fuels.

See more in South Korea; Nuclear Energy


China-Korea Relations: Crying Uncle No More: Stark Choices for Relations

Authors: Scott A. Snyder and See-won Byun
Comparative Connections

New strategic challenges that have emerged in recent months influence China's relations with both Koreas into the new year. While regional developments, especially North Korean domestic politics, may lead to a deepening convergence of aims among the United States, South Korea, and China, there remains a stark difference over preferred outcomes. CFR's Scott Snyder and See-won Byun of George Washington University explain the defense and economic developments over the past year and look at prospects for 2014 China-Korea relations.

See more in Asia and Pacific; Politics and Strategy

Ask CFR Experts

Does North Korea pose a credible threat to the United States?

Asked by Jonathan Crouse, from Coastal Carolina University

North Korea's capability to threaten the United States comes in two forms:

The possibility that North Korean-origin fissile material could be sent to the United States, either through sale to terrorist groups or by delivering a nuclear device to a U.S. harbor by boat, or;

The ability to threaten U.S. interests abroad, including through renewed conflict on the Korean peninsula, where 28,000 U.S. forces are stationed with the mission of defending South Korea from North Korean aggression.

Read full answer

See more in North Korea; Defense and Security

Recent Activity from Asia Unbound

CFR Events


What to Do About North Korea

Speakers Burwell B. Bell III

Former Commander, Combined Forces Command, U.S. Forces Korea, U.S. Army (Retired)

, Christopher R. Hill

Dean, Josef Korbel School of International Studies, University of Denver; Former U.S. Ambassador to the Republic of Korea

, Scott A. Snyder

Senior Fellow for Korea Studies and Director, Program on U.S.-Korea Policy, CFR

Moderator Jami Miscik

President and Vice Chairman, Kissinger Associates, Inc.

June 12, 2015

This meeting is on the record.

Read Listen Watch


U.S. Rebalance to Asia Symposium: The Future of the U.S. Alliance System

Speakers Euan Graham

Director, International Security Program, Lowy Institute for International Policy

, Sheila A. Smith

Senior Fellow for Japan Studies, Council on Foreign Relations

, Scott A. Snyder

Senior Fellow for Korea Studies and Director of the
Program on U.S.-Korea Policy, Council on Foreign Relations

Presider Jamie F. Metzl

Senior Fellow, Atlantic Council

April 21, 2015 11:00 a.m.–12:00 p.m. - Meeting

This meeting is on the record.

Read Listen Watch


Global Korea

Speakers Scott A. Snyder

Council on Foreign Relations

, Balbina Y. Hwang

Visiting Professor, Georgetown University

, Terence Roehrig

Professor in National Security Affairs and the Director of the Asia-Pacific Studies Group, U.S. Naval War College

October 24, 2012

This meeting is on the record.


Meeting ⁄ New York

Korea Update

Panelists Victor D. ChaD.S. Song-KF Endowed Chair in Government and Asian Studies and Director of Asian Studies, Edmund A. Walsh School of Foreign Service, Georgetown University; Senior Adviser and Korea Chair, Center for Strategic and International Studies; Author, The Impossible State: North Korea, Past and Future, Michael A. McDevittSenior Fellow, Center for Strategic Studies, Center for Naval Analyses, CNA; Former Director, East Asia Policy Office, U.S. Department of Defense; Rear Admiral, United States Navy (Retired), Scott A. SnyderSenior Fellow for Korea Studies and Director of the Program on U.S.-Korea Policy, Council on Foreign Relations; Editor, The U.S.-South Korea Alliance: Meeting New Security Challenges
Presider Calvin SimsProgram Officer, Journalism, Ford Foundation
April 30, 2012 5:30–6:00 p.m. - Reception
6:00–7:00 p.m. - Meeting

This meeting is on the record.

Read ListenWatch


NY Meetings Conference Call: After Kim Jong Il: The Future of North Korea

Speaker Scott A. SnyderSenior Fellow for Korea Studies and Director of the Program on U.S.-Korea Policy, Council on Foreign Relations
Presider Paul B. StaresGeneral John W. Vessey Senior Fellow for Conflict Prevention and Director of the Center for Preventive Action, Council on Foreign Relations
December 20, 2011 3:00–3:45 p.m. - Conference Call

This meeting is on the record.


Meeting ⁄ New York

U.S. Policy Toward the Korean Peninsula: Report of a CFR-Sponsored Independent Task Force

Panelists Charles L. "Jack" PritchardPresident, Korea Economic Institute of America; Former Ambassador and Special Envoy for Negotiations with the Democratic People's Republic of Korea; Co-Chair, Independent Task Force on U.S. Policy Toward the Korean Peninsula, Evans J.R. RevereSenior Director, Albright Stonebridge Group; Member, Independent Task Force on U.S. Policy Toward the Korean Peninsula, Scott A. SnyderAdjunct Senior Fellow for Korea Studies, Council on Foreign Relations; Director, Independent Task Force on U.S. Policy Toward the Korean Peninsula
Speaker David E. SangerChief Washington Correspondent, New York Times
June 16, 2010 8:00–8:15 a.m. - Reception
8:15–9:15 a.m. - Meeting

This meeting is on the record.

Read ListenWatch