Thursday 28 Oct 2021 | 07:44 | SYDNEY
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South Korea

Australia-Korea minilateral: A potential win-win

The Australia-Korea relationship is in its sixtieth year, and although trade, historic and strategic links are strong, security cooperation is less advanced. Earlier this year, on the sidelines of the G7 Summit in Cornwall, the two countries agreed in-principle to elevate their relationship to “

North Korea’s calculated restraint

September is an important month for South Korea’s President Moon Jae-in to make a last ditch attempt to revive relations with a recalcitrant North Korea before the presidential election next March. To such an end, his administration has sought to use major inter-Korean anniversaries this month,

North Korea calling

Despite protests from North Korea, this week the United States and South Korea kicked off their annual joint military exercise. Korea watchers are worried that the decision to carry on with the drill spells trouble for the inter-Korean détente, which was only revived in July with the

Moon’s last, best chance after Biden summit

US President Joe Biden and South Korean President Moon Jae-in held their first in-person summit in Washington last month, signing a lengthy joint statement that underscored the linchpin alliance forged in the battlefields of the Korean War and a shared vision governed by democratic norms, human

South Korea’s green goals

Last year, South Korea’s President Moon Jae-in launched a climate-change policy branded as a “Green New Deal” as part of a wider stimulus package for the country’s pandemic-afflicted economy. This sat alongside a commitment to achieve a net-zero carbon emissions target by the year 2050

“Flexible” is the new North Korea policy buzzword

South Korean President Moon Jae-in received a boost in his outreach to North Korea last week after talks with US President Joe Biden. Biden announced he would be open to a summit with North Korea Chairman Kim Jong-un on the proviso that Kim would be willing to give up his nuclear weapons during a

South Korea on North Korea: Keep on keeping on

South Korea’s President Moon Jae-in’s policy of engagement with North Korea copped a triple whammy in the past two weeks. After months of deliberation, the Joe Biden administration affirmed that the US President would not meet with North Korea Chairman Kim Jong-un, a clear policy break with

When a middle power is not caught in the middle

South Korea is set on a policy course that seeks to balance its economic relations with China and its security relations with the United States. Aiming for such a balance is understandable. China accounts for around one quarter of South Korea’s merchandise exports, and a fifth of its commercial

Troubles ahead for the US–South Korea alliance

The new Biden administration in Washington is reviewing its North Korea policy, a process that is expected to be completed next month. Pressure from experts is mounting for the administration to restart diplomacy with North Korea with more pragmatic goals, such as a shift away from complete

History haunts Japan–South Korea ties

The Seoul Central District Court last month delivered a verdict requiring the Japanese government to pay $US91,000 to 12 former “comfort women” who endured sexual slavery during the Second World War. The court’s ruling follows off the back of a similar decision by the South Korean Supreme

When China lashed out

On the wintry night of 27 November 1950, Chinese troops suddenly descended upon the US 1st Marine Division and the 31st Regimental Combat Team around the frozen Chosin Reservoir, less than 100 kilometres away from the China-Korea border. Having failed to dissuade the United States with words from

Leading by example: Two different responses to China’s rise

Australia and the Republic of Korea (ROK or South Korea) stand as critical security partners with the United States, and have supported the open, rules-based international order for well over half a century. Both have shed blood in this mission, standing with the US in every war since the Korean war

Coming soon: A neutral South Korea?

Around five years ago, I submitted an article to a leading strategic studies journal detailing how options previously considered extreme – such as abandoning the US alliance, acceding to China’s dominance, declaring a position of neutrality and/or securing a nuclear weapons capacity

A Biden presidency and the US–South Korea alliance

US presidential candidate Joe Biden, leading in most polls more than two months before the November election, is cautiously expected to win office. On foreign policy, his plan has been characterised as a “restoration project” to rebuild America’s international standing, with the help of allies

Where next for MIKTA?

After seven years, the informal middle power partnership bringing together Mexico, Indonesia, South Korea, Turkey and Australia (MIKTA), has achieved less than optimists envisioned, but lasted longer than pessimists imagined. MIKTA emerged from the G20 in 2013, bringing together middle powers

US–South Korea: Working group blues

South Korea’s President Moon Jae-in’s appointment of new national security advisers has attracted attention, given their pro-détente stance in spite of North Korea’s latest provocations. The incoming team has rolled out an ambitious agenda to break the stalemate between the North and South

Moon’s North Korea vision up in smoke? Not so fast …

North Korea’s demolition of the inter-Korean liaison office in Kaesong on 16 June sent a powerful visual message to the world that North-South relations were degrading. But perhaps equally telling were South Korea’s handling of the destruction and the subsequent personnel and policy

Can inter-Korean peace be salvaged from the latest wreckage?

North Korea’s demolition of the inter-Korean liaison office in Kaesong last week is a huge setback to Pyongyang’s relations with Seoul. Unfortunately the situation can get even worse. One day after the building was brought crashing down – a dramatic reminder to the rest of the world about

Islands of ire: The South Korea–Japan dispute

In early 2020, Japan reopened its National Museum of Territory and Sovereignty. Displays at the museum in Tokyo assert that islands disputed by Japan, South Korea and North Korea are Japanese territory and refer to these islands as Takeshima. South Korea’s government, which also claims sovereignty

Why Covid-19 only accelerates South Korea’s AI ambitions

South Korea is the perfect arena for the field of Artificial Intelligence to flourish. Plenty of talent and capital has been set aside for scientific research and development, the country has the advantage of stable government, while an aging demographic profile presents an opportunity for the

Covid-19 will kill Moon Jae-in’s Korea détente

South Korea has become the country worst hit by the novel coronavirus outside of China, with numbers of confirmed Covid-19 cases now more than 7500 and deaths more than 50. South Korea’s President Moon Jae-in has faced severe criticism in recent weeks for his handling of the virus ­– an online

South Korea’s struggle with coronavirus

South Korea now has the second worst coronavirus outbreak in the world, surpassed only by China. More than 1100 people are infected, and seven have died. Unsurprisingly the political fallout is widening. The media coverage is getting sensational. Everyone has watched too many movies, and even South

Japan–South Korea tensions show little sign of easing

2019 saw a rapid deterioration of Japan–South Korea relations on several fronts. In a culmination of the reoccurring spats over nationalist issues such as reparations for Korean comfort women and protests over the Dokdo/Takeshima islands that have characterised the bilateral relationship in recent

Moon Jae-in’s foreign policy reorientation

South Korean President Moon Jae-in is changing South Korean foreign policy. He has allowed Seoul’s relationship with the United States and Japan to deteriorate while betting heavily that North Korea would embrace his détente effort. This risks isolating South Korea, and the conservative pushback

Why does North Korea keep dragging its feet?

The long-awaited US–North Korea working-level talks collapsed last week, as Washington and Pyongyang could not agree on the definition of “denuclearisation” and mutual concessions. This followed the recent test of a submarine-launched ballistic missile (SLBM) by North Korea and insistence on

The pitfalls of North Korea’s summitry spectacle

The third meeting between US President Donald Trump and North Korea Chairman Kim Jong-un has come and gone, again without much substantial progress, but its symbolism has continued to dominate Korea watchers’ assessments of the event. Trump last month became the first sitting US president to set

Just why is the North Korean status quo so persistent?

Last month in The Interpreter, I argued that inter-Korean status quo is deeply persistent. US President Donald Trump and South Korean President Moon Jae-in have tried all sorts of tactics in the last 28 months to change things, yet nothing seems to work. In 2017, Trump reached to the limits of

The persistent status quo with North Korea

It is a commonplace in media treatments of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK, or North Korea) to view the previous two years as remarkable. This is often premised on the notion that the heavy American and South Korean (ROK, or Republic of Korea) engagement with the North since 2017

The limits of Moon Jae‑in’s shuttle diplomacy

Six weeks after the Hanoi summit, South Korean President Moon Jae-in is about to visit Washington in an effort to keep up the dialogue between the United States and North Korea. Moon’s 11 April trip will take place against a troubled backdrop, of North Korea’s threat to walk away from the

The K-Pop sex and drugs scandal sweeping South Korea

What started as a police investigation into a South Korean nightclub has since erupted into a national scandal, sweeping aside in the public mind at least all the international talk of North Korean denuclearisation and instead shining a light into the shady private lives of K-pop celebrities. The

Women of influence in South Korea

Today is International Women’s Day. In South Korea, women have owned the past year, regularly uniting in their tens of thousands to rally in the streets against gendered violence and injustice. The numbers were unprecedented, 70,000 attended one rally alone, including women of all ages and from

Kim and Trump, again: North Korea’s drives the wedge

Despite inflated pre-summit expectations that US President Donald Trump and North Korean Chairman Kim Jong-un would sign a deal involving at least some sanctions relief, liaison offices, an end of war declaration, and agreement for North Korea to dismantle its nuclear facilities, the fact that Hanoi

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