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Council on Foreign Relations Korea Update
February 2013

Global Governance and Middle Powers: How South Korea Aids the G20

South Korea's vice minister of foreign affairs and trade Kim Sung-han explains the growing role of "middle powers" such as South Korea in global governance.

The proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, terrorism, cybersecurity threats, climate change, and economic imbalances between developed and developing nations are all issues that great powers alone cannot resolve. Overcoming these challenges requires collaboration among all countries. Although great powers are useful in mobilizing cooperation, their efforts are insufficient to coordinate all involved actors. Solving today's complex challenges will require "middle powers" to play a greater, more active role. Through various initiatives, South Korea has demonstrated the influence middle powers may have on global governance. In the G20, where factionalism is becoming increasingly prevalent, middle powers such as South Korea can help facilitate consensus building and revitalize momentum for cooperation. Read the Essay on »


South Korea's New President

Park Geun-hye Offers Hope Amidst Tough Realities

Given the severity of South Korea's household debt and economic inequality problems, as well as rising challenges posed by both North Korea and the regional security environment, there is a clear need for strong and unifying South Korean statesmanship. Despite growing domestic anxiety about President Park Geun-hye's ability to lead, Snyder says it is a mistake to underestimate her. Read the Post on Asia Unbound »

New President Smashes Ceilings But Faces Difficult Times

Park broke through the glass ceiling when she became the first female South Korean head of state. She moves into the Blue House at a difficult time in Korean foreign policy. China's rise offers South Korea great economic opportunities but potentially at the price of making Korea a Chinese vassal once again. North Korea recently launched a long-range missile and conducted its third nuclear weapons test. Old animosities with Japan have again flared up. Fortunately, U.S.-ROK relations appear to be on a cooperative trajectory, explains CFR Director of Studies and Maurice R. Greenberg Chair James M. Lindsay. Read the Post on The Water's Edge »

Sino-South Korean Relations

A National Identity Gap Emerges In East Asia

A national identity gap has emerged between China and South Korea in confrontations over their shared history and the future of North Korea, and in the two countries' economic and cultural interactions in the context of globalization, argue Snyder and See-won Byun in their chapter in Gilbert Rozman's edited volume National Identities & Bilateral Relations: Widening Gaps in East Asia and Chinese Demonization of the United States. Read the Chapter »

North Korea Policy at Crossroads

Provocations Incentivize Cooperation

Pyongyang's third nuclear test poses an early challenge to new leaderships in Seoul and Beijing, as well as the Obama administration, while forcing the UN Security Council to again face the task of punishing North Korea without provoking further hostility. While North Korea's aggression limits political space for diplomacy and raises the cost and risks of further confrontation, it also illustrates the need for international cooperation to limit the costs that would result if North Korea stays on its current course, argues Snyder. Read the Post on Asia Unbound »

Xi Faces Rising Expectations

Beijing's mixed responses to Pyongyang's past provocations and the decision to support the recent UN Security Council resolution criticizing Pyongyang's December satellite launch contribute to the debate over Xi Jinping's willingness to punish Pyongyang. China's response to North Korea's third nuclear test will not only demonstrate the new leadership's position on North Korea's nuclear program, but also provide insight into China's assessments of North Korea's political stability, argues Snyder. Read the Post on Asia Unbound »

U.S.-DPRK Policy Needs Change

The first-term Obama administration's crime and punishment approach to North Korea's satellite launch and nuclear test through UN Security Council sanctions, statements, and resolutions failed to stop North Korea's growing nuclear and long-range missile delivery capabilities. Given the DPRK's steady progress, the second-term Obama administration should shift its strategy to focus on shaping North Korea's environment, recommends Snyder. Read the Post on Asia Unbound »

Renewing U.S.-ROK Policy Coordination

The complex evolution of the first-term Obama administration's policy toward North Korea and the characteristics of Obama's world view provide a framework for considering what his second-term administration is likely to do. However, China's critical perception of the U.S. "pivot" to Asia and Beijing's continued economic support for Pyongyang, along with uncertainties about Park's priorities on North Korea, complicate the future trajectory of U.S.-ROK policy coordination toward North Korea, argues Snyder. Read the Article »

South Korea’s Leap Forward

South Korea Joins the Global Space Club

In light of North Korea's recent success at launching a satellite into space in December, South Korea's successful rocket launch this January validates its past efforts in space development and is also a cause for national pride, explains Snyder to Biz Asia America. Watch the Interview »

South Korea Addresses Global Security Challenges

As South Korea's interests broaden with its expanding trade network, the nation rises as an emerging producer of international security resources. In an interview with Peace Network, Snyder discusses this new aspect of South Korea's approach to security and its peninsular and regional implications. Read the Interview »

Publications on Korea

North Korea in Transition: Politics, Economy, and Society

Global Korea: South Korea's Contributions to International Security

The U.S.-South Korea Alliance: Meeting New Security Challenges


2013–2014 Edward R. Murrow Press Fellowship Applicants

The 2013–2014 Edward R. Murrow Press Fellowship is open to applicants who have distinguished credentials in the field of journalism and who have covered international news as a working journalist for print, broadcast, or online media widely available in the United States. The application deadline is March 1, 2013. For online application instructions and more information, please contact


CFR's Korea Program in the News

NPR: "With Nuclear Test, N. Korean Leader Follows in the Family Footsteps" (February 12, 2013)

China Daily: "US, DPRK Verbal Volleys Continue" (February 7, 2013)

Christian Science Monitor: "South Korea Catches Up to North Korea on the Space Race" (January 30, 2013)

Los Angeles Times: "China Calls for Talks After North Korean Threat" (January 24, 2013)



The Program on U.S.-Korea Policy

The program on U.S.-Korea policy was established at the Council on Foreign Relations in September 2011. It aims to strengthen the U.S.-Korea relationship by providing relevant policy recommendations and promoting dialogue on sensitive bilateral, regional, and global issues facing the two countries. The program acknowledges the generous support it has received from the Smith Richardson Foundation, Korea Foundation, and South Korean private sponsors, including Hyundai Motors, Korea International Trade Association, and the Federation of Korean Industries. It also acknowledges with thanks additional support received from individual donor Sandor Hau.

Scott A. Snyder, Director
Follow @snydersas on Twitter

Darcie Draudt, Research Associate


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