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Council on Foreign Relations Korea Update
September 2013

Resetting Inter-Korea Relations

After months of uncertainty and seven rounds of contentious negotiations, the Kaesong Industrial Complex is set to resume operations following an August 14 joint agreement between South and North Korea. The resumption of operations is a potential reset in inter-Korea relations as it opens the door to address other issues in the relationship, including a resumption of cross-border family reunions, economic and cultural cooperation measures, and the establishment of a peace park in the demilitarized zone. However, despite the salvaging of Kaesong, one major obstacle to North Korea's economic prosperity and integration with its neighbors remains: the country's simultaneous pursuit of economic improvement and nuclear development. The economic objective is bolstered by North Korea's decision to salvage Kaesong on South Korean terms, but continued nuclear development stands as a major obstacle to Kim Jong-un's pledge that North Koreans will not have to "tighten their belts" again, explains Scott A. Snyder, CFR senior fellow for Korea studies and director of the program on U.S.-Korea policy. Read the post on Asia Unbound ยป


The Two Koreas

Growing Gap Between North and South

Though North and South Korea structured their post–Korean War recovery on identical cultural foundations, their chosen political paths have led to an unprecedented divergence in development, growth, and quality of life. North Korea's deindustrialization and moribund economy is a stark contrast to South Korea's remarkable ascension and progress. Max Boot, CFR senior fellow for national security studies, takes a closer look at how political differences have shaped the North and South Korean narratives sixty years after the war that tore them apart. Read the article »

Addressing Critical Issues in Peninsular Security

The sixtieth anniversary of the armistice agreement that ended the Korean War provides an opportunity to reflect on how dynamics on the peninsula have evolved alongside changes in South Korea's relationship with the world. Discussing the U.S.-ROK military alliance, the possibility of a peace treaty between North and South Korea, and China's growing role in promoting stability in northeast Asia, Snyder emphasizes the need for "a reset" in the North-South relationship and the importance of the Six-Party Joint Statement in moving toward a lasting inter-Korean peace. Watch the interview »

Anticipating North Korea's Next Move

Ever since North Korea's abrupt shift from military provocation to "charm diplomacy," North Korea–watchers have speculated over the form and timing of Pyongyang's next test of international patience. Ken Gause, senior research analyst at the Center for Naval Analyses, offers a new perspective on North Korean actions, arguing that there are likely different underlying motives regarding Kim Jong-un's overt and covert provocations. Gause also suggests that a closer look at "regime intent" will better aid deterrence in the future and caution against viewing North Korea's nuclear program as a bargaining tool for economic concessions. In addition, Snyder explains that more nuclear tests, missile launches, or other North Korean provocations should be expected, as Kim's legitimacy and prospects for survival may depend on them. Read the post on Asia Unbound »

The U.S.-ROK Alliance

A Closer Look at OPCON Transfer

The U.S.-ROK alliance has for decades been a linchpin of both U.S. and South Korean security interests in Northeast Asia and one of the strongest partnerships that either country maintains. However, the sustained U.S. military presence on the peninsula is not without controversy, particularly as it relates to burden-sharing and U.S. wartime operational control (OPCON) of South Korean military forces. Alongside Professor Lee Shin-hwa of Korea University, Snyder stresses the importance of South Korea's ability to meet proper conditions prior to OPCON transfer to sustain a robust defense posture. Listen to the interview »

Korea and East Asia

What KORUS Can Teach Japan About Free Trade

Japan's participation in Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) negotiations both critically expands the potential of the TPP to shape global trade and presents Japan with an opportunity to create new trade relationships and economic growth. Guest blogger Sean Connell, a Japan studies fellow at the East-West Center, argues that Japan could learn a great deal about TPP negotiations from South Korea's involvement in the Korea-U.S. Free Trade Agreement (KORUS FTA), a model FTA that has been invaluable to South Korea's bilateral relationship with the United States. Connell points out that KORUS FTA managed to silence skeptics who doubted the U.S.-ROK alliance's tenacity, writing that the TPP might be just what Japan needs to reinvigorate its relationship with the United States. Read the post on Asia Unbound »

Call for Fellowship Application

CFR 2014-2015 International Affairs Fellowship in Japan, sponsored by Hitachi, Ltd.

The program provides a selected group of mid-career U.S. citizens the opportunity to expand their professional horizons by spending a period of research or other professional activity in Japan. The program is intended primarily for those without substantial prior experience in Japan. Knowledge of the Japanese language is not a requirement. The application deadline is October 31, 2013.

Program details, eligibility requirements, and application instructions can be found online at For more information, please contact or 212.434.9740. Read more »

CFR's Korea Program in the News

Radio Free Asia, "North Korean Nuclear Threat Clouds Kaesong Breakthrough" (August 15, 2013)

China Daily USA, "US asks China's help on DPRK rights issues" (August 15, 2013)

Washington Post, "North and South Korea move closer to reopening joint factory park" (August 14, 2013)

The Boston Globe, "Koreas agree to repoen factory park" (August 14, 2013)

Arirang News, "Washington considering options to secure release of Kenneth Bae" (August 14, 2013)

Global Research, "The US-South Korea Alliance and the Prospect of a Peace Treaty" (August 4, 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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