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  • Publication Date: 01-2021
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Korea Economic Institute of America (KEI)
  • Abstract: The Korea Economic Institute of America (KEI), with the generous support of the Korea Foundation, organized six “Vision Group” roundtable conversations with leading American scholars and commentators to discuss the United States’ relationship with the Republic of Korea. The first was held in December 2019, the last in November 2020. The intent was to consider the future of relations during a time of change. The Vision Group comprised a wide range of expertise and opinion. This record conveys some of the insights and recommendations that arose during the conversations.
  • Topic: International Relations, Security, Foreign Policy, Economics, Human Rights
  • Political Geography: China, Asia, South Korea, North Korea, United States of America
  • Author: Maximilian Ernst
  • Publication Date: 04-2021
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Korea Economic Institute of America (KEI)
  • Abstract: This paper examines South Korea’s foreign policy towards China before, during, and after the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) missile defense dispute to investigate the limits of South Korea’s public diplomacy and soft power. South Korea’s official public diplomacy has the objective to “gain global support for Korea’s policies,” following Joseph Nye’s narrow definition of soft power. South Korea furthermore ranks high in the most relevant soft power indices. Based on the case of Chinese economic retaliation against South Korea in response to THAAD deployment, this paper argues that public diplomacy and soft power only work in the absence of traditional security contentions, but fail in the presence of such security contentions. The THAAD case also demonstrates the utility of traditional diplomacy, based on high-level summits and negotiations, to solve the very disputes that South Korea’s latent public diplomacy and soft power were unable to alleviate.
  • Topic: International Relations, Foreign Policy, Diplomacy, Economics, Weapons
  • Political Geography: China, Asia, South Korea, Korea
  • Author: Troy Stangarone, Juni Kim
  • Publication Date: 05-2021
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Korea Economic Institute of America (KEI)
  • Abstract: KEI’s 2021 Report on American Attitudes on the U.S.-ROK Alliance and North Korea Policy summarizes results from a survey commissioned by KEI and conducted by YouGov on May 6th to May 10th, 2021 in advance of the U.S.-ROK summit on May 21st, 2021. The survey asked Americans their views on the U.S.-South Korea relationship, North Korea policy, and the U.S.’ role in the East Asian region.
  • Topic: International Relations, Security, Foreign Policy, Economics, Domestic politics
  • Political Geography: Asia, South Korea, North America, United States of America
  • Author: Clara Gillespie
  • Publication Date: 05-2020
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Korea Economic Institute of America (KEI)
  • Abstract: Under President Moon Jae-in, South Korea has set an ambitious target to move from being “first in the world” in the race to 5G to “first in global quality.” Yet, while a range of industry and government stakeholders are investing heavily in making this vision a reality, a number of factors are likely to weigh on whether or not these efforts yield significant results. These include uncertainties about how to further accelerate development in ways that lead to better returns on investments, and about how to navigate complex geopolitical considerations, including ongoing debates about Huawei’s involvement in 5G network infrastructure. Each of these areas will, in turn, require domestic stakeholders to make complex assessments about potential tradeoffs and risks. Thus, this paper assesses South Korea’s emerging 5G era at the one-year mark, and highlights key successes, setbacks, and ongoing challenges. Building on these findings, the paper concludes by offering several potential scenarios for future development, and suggestions for ways forward.
  • Topic: Economics, Science and Technology, 5G
  • Political Geography: Asia, South Korea
  • Author: Liudmila Zakharova
  • Publication Date: 12-2019
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Korea Economic Institute of America (KEI)
  • Abstract: The New Northern Policy, proclaimed by the South Korean President Moon Jae-in in Vladivostok in September 2017, is designed to boost economic cooperation between Russia and South Korea. However, two years after a special presidential committee was created to plan and coordinate joint economic efforts, few results have been achieved. Bilateral trade has continued to increase with limited change to its structure: Russia mostly sends its mineral resources to South Korea and receives industrial products in return. New ROK investment in the Russian Far East has yet to occur, despite South Korea’s efforts to assist its businesses in finding profitable Russian projects. Seoul tried to convince Moscow that concluding a free trade agreement in the near future is necessary for intensified cooperation, but Russia prefers a more gradual approach to trade liberalization. InterKorean rapprochement in 2018 laid a foundation for further progress in the implementation of multilateral economic projects involving Russia if the international sanctions against North Korea were to be eased. Therefore, bilateral relations between Russia and the ROK can also be viewed from the perspective of promoting regional cooperation with North Korean participation.
  • Topic: International Relations, Economics, Bilateral Relations
  • Political Geography: Russia, Asia, South Korea, North Korea, Korea
  • Author: Jiwon Nam, Kristin Vekasi
  • Publication Date: 06-2019
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Korea Economic Institute of America (KEI)
  • Abstract: Tensions between South Korea and Japan are frustratingly persistent. Despite the shared interests of both countries, such as economic development in Southeast Asia, and keeping a robust alliance with the United States, South Korea and Japan maintain a bellicose relationship because of unresolved historical misunderstandings and territorial disputes. Inconsistent diplomatic policies and lack of strong leaders have made it difficult to prevent unnecessary hostility between South Korea and Japan. Fear of losing support has prevented politicians from pursuing friendly policies towards each other. Businesspeople, too, have been reluctant to pursue friendly policies towards each other, because of preconceived risks of being targeted for backlash. An examination of economic data shows these risks are minimal, and political tensions do not affect business or consumer behavior. Current efforts from both Korean and Japanese business organizations to improve cooperation include student exchange programs, recruitment processes, and public diplomacy. We urge the business community to advocate more to improve bilateral relations. Economic relations alone are insufficient to handle the task of improving a difficult relationship; there is also a need for leadership. In South Korea-Japan relations, the business community should step in and provide that role.
  • Topic: Economics, Bilateral Relations, Business , Private Sector
  • Political Geography: Japan, Asia, South Korea, North America, Korea, United States of America
  • Author: Théo Clément
  • Publication Date: 06-2019
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Korea Economic Institute of America (KEI)
  • Abstract: While North Korea has developed Special Economic Zones for several decades now, these zones have attracted little attention from foreign investors, due to a mix of lack of economic reforms in the DPRK, the tense geopolitical situation, and China’s peculiar economic engagement towards North Korea. With the denuclearization process and North-South dialogue moving forward, this situation could change as South Korea’s announced policy of economic engagement with the North could provide Pyongyang the opportunity to play Beijing against Seoul to maximize its interests and attract foreign investment in Special Economic Zones from partners keen to maintain close ties with the DPRK.
  • Topic: Economics, Bilateral Relations, Investment, Trade, Denuclearization
  • Political Geography: Asia, South Korea, North Korea, Korea
  • Author: Choong Yong Ahn
  • Publication Date: 05-2018
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Korea Economic Institute of America (KEI)
  • Abstract: The Moon Jae-in administration in South Korea has taken a two-pronged approach to ensure urgently needed job creation and inclusive growth. Although measures towards each set of economic policies have been implemented since Moon took office in May 2017, what’s often referred to as “incomeled growth” has been prioritized over innovative growth. The income-led growth model is largely driven by domestic consumption through pro-labor distributional policies including a wage hike to raise the disposable income of low- and middleincome individuals, thereby triggering equity with growth. Focused more on the supply side, the innovative growth model encourages startups to create jobs and innovate. It is a great challenge for Korea to pursue growth and equity through both sets of policies. After a year in office, the Moon administration’s economic agenda, often referred to as J-nomics, has not fully produced the intended policy objectives in terms of job creation and growth. To mitigate a declining potential growth rate and pursue robust and inclusive growth, the twin policies need to be rebalanced, reprioritized, and interconnected in a mutually reinforcing manner to empower the private sector to play a bigger role. As a mid-sized open economy, Korea requires global market competitiveness on the supply side to create decent jobs by buoying entrepreneurship and innovation. Structural reforms in the labor market combined with deregulations necessary for the advent of disruptive 4th-industrial-revolution technologies must be expedited. Furthermore, a new business ecosystem in which win-win collaborations between globally-oriented conglomerates and small businesses must be encouraged to replace a zero-sum business culture.
  • Topic: Economics, Science and Technology, Global Markets, Economic Growth
  • Political Geography: Asia, South Korea, Korea
  • Author: Jin Kyo Suh
  • Publication Date: 05-2018
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Korea Economic Institute of America (KEI)
  • Abstract: Beef trade was a major sticking point between the United States and South Korea in ratifying the KORUS FTA. The outcome of the renegotiations that led to the March 2018 agreement in principle did not impact sections pertaining to beef in the agreement, though looking at how beef trade would have been affected should the talks have failed highlights the importance of the agreement to both countries, but particularly the United States. This paper estimates the demand for imported beef in South Korea by source and product by using the production version of the Rotterdam demand system and assesses what the potential impact of U.S. withdrawal from the KORUS FTA would have been on beef trade between the U.S. and South Korea. The results suggest U.S. withdrawal from the KORUS FTA would have resulted in a considerable increase in Australian beef exports to South Korea, largely at the expense of U.S. beef. This is because there is significant price competition between beef imports from the United States and Australia. Furthermore, Korean consumers substitute American beef for Australian beef when the relative price of U.S. beef rises.
  • Topic: Economics, Treaties and Agreements, Exports, Trade Policy
  • Political Geography: Asia, South Korea, North America, Korea, United States of America
  • Author: Younsung Kim
  • Publication Date: 11-2017
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Korea Economic Institute of America (KEI)
  • Abstract: Companies in industrialized nations have embraced environmental protection and sustainability as part of their international competitive strategies. The trend toward proactive environmental management has also grown in Korean firms, as consumers, investors, local policy networks, and the Lee Myung-bak administration’s green growth policy initiatives have provided an impetus for the greening of South Korean firms. However, despite heightened firm interest in environmental responsibility, there is little understanding of which types of sustainable activities Korean firms have implemented. Analyzing sustainability reports from 30 large Korean firms, this study finds that Korean firms are more likely to employ lower-order sustainability practices that can help prevent pollution and modify existing processes and products to reduce environmental impact. However, their focus on innovating clean technologies seems to be limited. To transition to a low-carbon, green economy, the Korean government should consider green growth policies that foster firms’ investments in higher-order sustainability strategies and scale up corporate sustainability more broadly in the Korean business community.
  • Topic: Economics, Energy Policy, Environment, Renewable Energy, Sustainability, Domestic Policy
  • Political Geography: Asia, South Korea, Korea