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

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

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

All Publications


U.S.-North Korea: Stalemate

Scott A. Snyder interviewed by Bernard Gwertzman

If North Korean leader Kim Jong-Il visits China as reportedly scheduled, he will be urged to return to Six Party Talks. But the U.S. and North Korea are at a standoff, says CFR Korea expert Scott Snyder, with North Korea demanding a peace treaty and the United States insisting on denuclearization.

See more in North Korea; United States


North Korea's Nuclear and Missile Tests and Six-Party Talks: Where Do We Go From Here?

Author: Scott A. Snyder

Scott A. Snyder testifies before the House Committee on Foreign Affairs' Subcommittee on Asia, the Pacific, and the Global Environment; and Subcommittee on Terrorism, Nonproliferation and Trade. His testimony addresses North Korea’s nuclear and missile tests and Six-Party talks.

See more in United States; Nonproliferation, Arms Control, and Disarmament; South Korea; North Korea; Missile Defense

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


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.

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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

Speaker David E. SangerChief Washington Correspondent, New York Times
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
June 16, 2010 8:00–8:15 a.m. - Reception
8:15–9:15 a.m. - Meeting

This meeting is on the record.

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Nuclear Test, Political Fallout, and Domestic Turmoil

North Korea’s fifth nuclear test on Sept. 9 and the intensified test-firing of a range of missile types throughout 2016 underscored existing weaknesses in using dialogue and sanctions as a response. The timing of Pyongyang’s latest provocations coincided with the G20 Summit in Hangzhou and ASEAN-related meetings in Vientiane. President Park Geun-hye used the venues for sideline talks with President Xi Jinping and President Obama. The nuclear test directly challenged a nonproliferation statement adopted by East Asia Summit (EAS) members on Oct. 8, which urged North Korea to abandon its weapons programs.  Following extended negotiations with the US, China finally joined the international community in adopting UN Security Council Resolution 2321 on Nov. 30. In addition to strains in the China-DPRK relationship, regional coordination on North Korea remains challenged by disputes between China and the ROK over THAAD and illegal Chinese fishing.