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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: 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: 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: Bryan Port
  • Publication Date: 06-2019
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Korea Economic Institute of America (KEI)
  • Abstract: A coherent North Korea strategy must proceed from a theory of North Korean politics, strategy, and decision-making. Structured analytic techniques, particularly the analysis of competing hypotheses (ACH), are instrumental in developing a theory and strategy. North Korea’s nuclear and missile programs serve a blend of internal and external purposes. A successful strategy that renders North Korean denuclearization must account for both types of purposes, determining which of the two are predominant. Applying ACH can assist in making such an assessment, setting a level of confidence, designing a strategy, and determining measures to assess the analytic foundation of the strategy and the measures used in executing the strategy. This paper tees up four potential hypotheses intended to explore North Korean intentions and assist in developing strategy. However, the intention of the paper is not primarily to make a case for a given hypothesis, but rather to explore the method in the hope that others may find the method useful and apply it to the important undertaking of North Korean denuclearization.
  • Topic: International Relations, Weapons , Kim Jong-un, Denuclearization
  • Political Geography: Asia, North Korea, Korea
  • Author: Jeffrey Robertson
  • Publication Date: 04-2019
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Korea Economic Institute of America (KEI)
  • Abstract: During 2017-18, international attention turned to the Korean Peninsula as the threat of conflict reached new heights. This led to an explosion in the growth of “North Korea watchers”— the community of scholars, analysts, government officers, NGO advocates, and journalists who commit a portion of their lives to following events in North Korea. Divides emerged in overlapping regional, professional, institutional (political), and linguistic differences that saw individuals take conflicting positions on key issues. This paper investigates just one of these divides—how language and culture impact policy discourse on North Korea. The study explores language as a source of division in the North Korea watching community. It uses Einar Wigen’s argument that international relations should be conceptualized as inter-lingual relations, which suggests that despite the narrowing of political vocabularies, residues of politico-cultural differences remain in how concepts are contextualized into discourse, even between close partners. The study assesses compatibility between English and Korean language conceptualizations of North Korea, through an assessment of core inputs into policy discourse. The study then discusses the implications for U.S.-South Korea relations, and ongoing efforts to strengthen Korean Peninsula security.
  • Topic: International Relations, Security, Foreign Policy, Bilateral Relations, Conflict
  • Political Geography: Asia, North Korea, Korea, United States of America
  • Author: Daniel Wertz
  • Publication Date: 04-2019
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Korea Economic Institute of America (KEI)
  • Abstract: The Trump administration’s maximum pressure campaign has led to the imposition of a nearly comprehensive international sanctions regime targeting North Korea and its nuclear weapons program. With negotiations underway, the question of whether to provide North Korea with partial sanctions relief in exchange for limited concessions on its nuclear program has been a major point of dispute between Washington and Pyongyang. This paper looks at sanctions as a form of coercive bargaining and examines the logic and challenges behind a strategy of incrementally exchanging relief from pressure for compliance with the sanctioner’s demands. It argues that taking an “all-or-nothing” approach to sanctions relief risks missing an opportunity to reduce the threat of North Korea’s nuclear program and squandering hard-won negotiating leverage, and outlines a framework for how a step-by-step approach might proceed.
  • Topic: International Relations, Nuclear Weapons, Sanctions, Denuclearization
  • Political Geography: Asia, North Korea, North America, Korea, United States of America
  • Author: June Park
  • Publication Date: 01-2019
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Korea Economic Institute of America (KEI)
  • Abstract: This paper examines the impacts of global competition in solar panel production and the conflict of domestic interests among solar-related industries in the U.S. on South Korea’s solar-focused renewable energy policy. Examining the Moon Jaein administration’s energy policy amid the impact of the U.S. safeguard on South Korean solar panels, the paper argues a) the U.S. safeguard is a hindrance to South Korea’s path forward on solar panel production, and b) Moon’s sole focus on sustainability and his ambitious solar energy target will result in further adoption of lower-cost Chinese solar panels, foregoing the opportunity to upgrade South Korean panels. As South Korean firms announce their decisions to relocate to the U.S. to avoid U.S. safeguard tariffs, the paper recommends the destinations of South Korean solar panel exports be diversified and the goals of South Korean energy policy be centered on balancing cost, stability, and sustainability. The paper does not necessarily recommend a full-fledged drive on expanding solar energy use in South Korea; rather, it calls for the strategic reevaluation of energy policy upon which a clear and sound strategy for solar energy should be formulated.
  • Topic: Energy Policy, Bilateral Relations, Trade Wars, Renewable Energy, Solar Power
  • Political Geography: Asia, South Korea, North Korea, Korea, United States of America
  • Author: Meredith Shaw
  • Publication Date: 12-2018
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Korea Economic Institute of America (KEI)
  • Abstract: Kim Jong-un’s sudden ascent as leader came at a significant time for North Korea—a year that had coincidentally been long foreshadowed in state media as the “dawn of the strong and prosperous era.” Yet the new leader had different priorities and a different idea of what strength and prosperity looked like than his forebears, and this has resulted in notable changes to lifestyle and landscape. In a state notoriously resistant to policy changes, propaganda tools such as state fiction were able to repurpose the existing “strong and prosperous” slogan to lend legitimacy to new initiatives and social trends encouraged by the new leadership. Through a thematic analysis of new North Korean fiction, this paper examines how “strong and prosperous” and related buzzwords have been tied to changes in architecture, culture, science and technology, leisure, entertainment, and daily living. In addition to the author’s close reading of recent North Korean literature, this research draws upon analysis by leading South Korean analysts of North Korean literature and the testimony of North Korean defectors.
  • Topic: Culture, Media, Literature, Propaganda
  • Political Geography: Asia, North Korea
  • Author: Christopher Green, Stephen Denney
  • Publication Date: 10-2018
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Korea Economic Institute of America (KEI)
  • Abstract: What can the resettlement of North Korean defector-migrants into South Korean society today tell us about Korean national identity and the likely challenges of integrating the two Koreas tomorrow? In this paper, we report findings from a 2016 national identity survey of 334 North Korean defector-migrants currently residing in South Korea. It compares responses to that of native South Koreans and considers in-group differences of opinion. Overall, we find no substantive identity divergences between those from North Korea and native South Koreans. We do, however, find evidence of significant in-group identity differences, namely cohort effects. Older defector-migrants are more likely to see their “Koreaness” as defined by ethnocultural traits, feel closer to South Korea, and be more “patriotic” than younger migrants.
  • Topic: Demographics, Migration, Refugees, Domestic politics
  • Political Geography: Asia, South Korea, North Korea, Korea
  • Author: Marco Milani
  • Publication Date: 06-2018
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Korea Economic Institute of America (KEI)
  • Abstract: In recent years the North Korean nuclear program has increasingly become a major concern for East Asian security. Pyongyang has repeatedly demonstrated its advancements in both missile and nuclear technology, with the final goal of acquiring a credible nuclear deterrent. To achieve this goal, the regime has committed a vast amount of state resources and has jeopardized relations with neighboring countries and major powers. This dangerous situation has created instability in the region and has hindered the possibilities of inter-Korean dialogue and cooperation. The traditional interpretation of the North Korean nuclear program focuses on the survival of the regime and emphasizes the military aspect of security. While these factors play a significant role, over the last twenty-five years new roles have emerged for the nuclear program. Survival remains the priority, but in addition to the military level of nuclear deterrence this paper introduces two different aspects directly connected to the security of the regime: economic security and domestic ideological legitimization. The development of nuclear weapons has been repeatedly used by Pyongyang as leverage in negotiations and to strengthen its political legitimacy. Understanding the complexity and the different factors behind this strategy is crucial to design and implement a viable and effective strategy aimed at limiting or eliminating the North Korean nuclear threat.
  • Topic: Security, Diplomacy, Nuclear Weapons, Bilateral Relations, Denuclearization
  • Political Geography: East Asia, Asia, South Korea, North Korea, Korea
  • Author: Stephen Blank
  • Publication Date: 03-2018
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Korea Economic Institute of America (KEI)
  • Abstract: The sudden announcement of a North Korea-U.S. summit in March 2018 upended all previous diplomacy concerning North Korea’s nuclear program. In return for a bilateral presidential summit, Pyongyang has agreed to suspend testing of its nuclear and missile programs and accepted the continuation of scheduled U.S.-South Korea exercises as planned. While this unexpected development reduces tensions and opens up a political path to a solution on the Korean Peninsula, it also imparts increased urgency for a well-conceived U.S. diplomatic strategy so that the summit and any ensuing negotiations lead to positive outcomes for Washington and Seoul and the other interested parties, thus ensuring its sustainability. In this context, the author advances an assessment of the current situation and a proposal for a U.S. program that could reduce military tensions in and around Korea, lead to the stabilization of a new and legitimate equilibrium in Northeast Asia, and advance shared American, South Korean, and Japanese objectives.
  • Topic: International Relations, Security, Foreign Policy, Weapons , Denuclearization
  • Political Geography: Asia, South Korea, North Korea, North America, Korea, United States of America