Skip to 0 minutes and 13 seconds Welcome to “Korea in a Global Context”. My name is Yong-Soo Eun. I am an Associate Professor of Political Science and International Studies here at Hanyang University, in Seoul, South Korea. I am also the Editor-in-Chief of Routledge book series, entitled International Relations (IR) Theory and Practice in Asia. My research and teaching interests focus on international relations theory, Foreign Policy Analysis, in particular cognitive approaches to the study of international relations, and philosophy of social science, the international politics of the Asia-Pacific region. Throughout this course, I will be your guide through this course. Before we get started, let me ask you one question. What is the first thing that comes to your mind when you think about South Korea?
Skip to 0 minutes and 57 seconds Korean pop culture and music, like Gangnam Style? Or Korean food, such as Kimchi or Bul Goh Gi? Or superfast internet and mobile service? All this sounds very interesting and important; but in this course we will think about and discuss South Korea’s foreign and security policy, and global political conditions with which South Korea is faced, a topic that might sound a little bit more serious and complex yet as interesting as K-pop In fact, South Korea is at a critical juncture, particularly in global contexts. Let’s take an example from a geopolitical and international security perspective. South Korea is located in Northeast Asia from which almost all security tensions in East Asia gravitate.
Skip to 1 minute and 47 seconds Consider, for example, the long-standing Sino-Japanese rivalry and the unresolved territorial disputes in East Asia. As one Japanese scholar note, the territorial disputes between Tokyo and Beijing “have reached a boiling point … and they could easily lead to full-blown military clashes if there were not handled properly.” Also, the legacies of the Cold War still linger on the Korean peninsula as the division of Korea and the persistent confrontation between the these two countries, two Koreas clearly demonstrate. Relatedly, the security threats posed by North Korea’s nuclear tests and long-range missiles cannot be taken lightly. Most of all, the rise of China and the United States “pivot” or “rebalance” toward Asia is likely to generate a new dimension of global power politics.
Skip to 2 minutes and 49 seconds From the international economic perspective, however, we do have a quite different picture of the world, particularly that of Northeast Asia. Indeed, Northeast Asia, once marked by tensions and conflicts from a security respective, becomes a region of cooperation and interdependence in economic and financial terms. For example, the share of intra-regional trade between South Korea, Japan, and China increased from 12 percent in 1990 to 24 percent in 2014. In addition, China, Japan, and South Korea constitute together more than 23 percent of the global population, and the three countries’ aggregate GDP account for around 20 percent of global GDP.
Skip to 3 minutes and 40 seconds In this regard, it is often said that Asia is changing the world economy, and that the rise of Asia is a defining feature of the 21st century. The U.S. National Intelligence Council even predicts that China’s economy will outgrow that of United States’ by 2030. OK. So, in this rapidly evolving or changing global strategic balance and regional, economic order, South Korea faces both challenges and opportunities. Its national interests will be affected and to a certain extent shaped by how South Korea perceives and approaches security, political, and economic issues at both regional and global levels.
Skip to 4 minutes and 25 seconds At the same time, however, the configurations of global power and economic relations will be also affected by how South Korea behaves toward other states and how it deals with regional, and political, economic matters and issues. South Korea can play a significant role on the global stage given its geographical location, economic and technological power as well as its close economic relationship with Beijing and the strong security alliance with Washington that South Korea currently enjoys. South Korea is a major state actor of such a dynamic and critical region of Northeast Asia; and it is one of the most advanced nations in the world in terms of market economy, technology, and democracy at a global level.
Skip to 5 minutes and 19 seconds South Korea and its foreign policies and relations are, therefore, worthy of serious attention. In this respect, we will discuss what challenges and opportunities South Korea faces and critically analyse how regional and global politics would affect and would be affected by South Korea’s external behaviour. In doing so, the focus of our discussion will be on major states of the Asia-Pacific region, such as the United States, China, Japan, and North Korea, and their foreign policies and actions. Before we get going, though, it seems appropriate for us to think a little bit further about stasis and change in international structural conditions with which not only South Korea, but also those major powers are confronted.
Skip to 6 minutes and 12 seconds This is indeed a necessary task for us to do. Because just Think about it. Does any state make foreign policy decisions in a vacuum? Obviously not. They do so in a certain structural setting which, in turn, can surely constrain and facilitate the decisions and choices of state actors. Only after properly understanding past and present or persistent and changing contexts and conditions of global politics, we are then able to have more comprehensive and more solid understandings of South Korea. In this light, the following steps will guide you to think about what have changed and what have not been changed in global politics mainly in terms of actors, security, war, and economy.
What are we going to discuss?
In this opening video, Dr. Yong-Soo Eun, explains what to expect over the next six weeks.
South Korea is at a critical juncture, particularly from global perspectives.
From a geopolitical perspective, South Korea is located in Northeast Asia, a region from which almost all security tension in East Asia emerges. Consider, for example, the long-standing Sino-Japanese rivalry and the unresolved territorial disputes in the East China Sea. It is often said that the territorial disputes between Tokyo and Beijing have reached a ‘boiling point.’ Also, the persistent security threats posed by North Korea’s nuclear weapons and long-range missiles cannot be taken lightly. Most of all, the rise of China and the United States’ “rebalance” toward Asia is likely to generate a new dimension of global power politics.
From a global economic perspective, however, Northeast Asia is a region of cooperation and interdependence. For example, the share of intra-regional trade between China, Japan and Korea increased from 12.3% in 1990 to 22.5% in 2010. China is the largest trading partner of both South Korea and Japan. South Korea is China’s third largest trading partner. In addition, two-way trade between Japan and China had reached $340 billion in 2014, and the stock of Japanese investment in China had reached $100 billion in 2014, that is $30 billion more than the next largest investor — the United States.
South Korea faces both challenges and opportunities in such a dynamic region as East Asia. Furthermore, academics and policymakers alike tend to agree that the dominant issues of the twenty-first century would be decided in Asia-Pacific. As such, South Korea’s national interests will be shaped by how it perceives and approaches the political and economic issues of East Asia and (by extension) Asia-Pacific. At the same time, the evolving regional order and thus the 21st century global politics would be affected by how South Korea, as one of the key actors of East Asia, behaves toward other regional states.
In this respect, we aim to understand South Korea within the context of complex and important dynamics concerning global politics and the international relations of Asia-Pacific. As a first step, we will place our attention on what has changed and what has not changed in 21st century global politics, mainly in terms of actors, security, war, and economy. The following pictures, videos, and articles at each step will help you develop your perspectives on the issues.
© Yong-Soo Eun, Hanyang University