Middle-Power Korea

Contributions to the Global Agenda



South Korea can best influence the global agenda by committing sufficient resources to sustainable development, financial stability, nuclear governance, and green growth, argues Scott A. Snyder, Council on Foreign Relations (CFR) senior fellow for Korea studies, in the introduction to a new report, Middle-Power Korea: Contributions to the Global Agenda.

South Korea has raised its international profile by organizing major conferences, a strategy that Snyder terms “hosting diplomacy.” Between 2010 and 2012, it convened meetings of the Group of Twenty (G20), Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), and Green Climate Fund.

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South Korea

Politics and Government

“By exploiting its international standing, capabilities, and aspirations as a middle power, South Korea has drawn a record number of leaders to Seoul for discussions on some of the toughest problems facing the world and has earned a seat at the table based on its thought leadership rather than its size,” Snyder writes.

However, he cautions, “for a country with limited resources and power such as the ROK [Republic of Korea] to continue to make a difference on the international stage, it needs to effectively deploy its vision and experience, its institutional capacity to bridge gaps among nations, and its top-rank human resources.”

Snyder recommends that Seoul

  • prioritize its contributions in line with South Korea’s expertise on particular issues;
  • establish institutional strategies to further its contributions to these issues; and
  • determine which aspects of its own economic, political, sustainable, and financial development experience might be transferable to developing countries today, and provide them with training in these areas.

Snyder’s conclusions are based on five expert evaluations of South Korean diplomacy. The report features Colin I. Bradford of the Brookings Institution on financial policy, Brendan Howe of Ewha Women’s University on international development, Toby Dalton of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace on nuclear energy, independent researcher Jill Kosch O’Donnell on green growth, and Andrew O’Neil of Griffith University on the durability of South Korea’s diplomatic ambitions.

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South Korea

Politics and Government

With Pacific Forum CSIS Executive Director Brad Glosserman, Snyder is also coauthor of the new book The Japan-South Korea Identity Clash: East Asian Security and the United States. In the book, Snyder and Glosserman explore how divergent national identities have fractured relations between Japan and South Korea.

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