Sejong Policy Series
Individual and joint research results are published as Policy Books.

Sejong Policy Series

The Tasks of the Next Administration : Diplomacy, National Security, and Unification
2017.05.11  Thursday
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Soung Chul KIM, Daewoo Lee, Myon woo Lee, Sang Hyun Lee, Tai Hwan Lee, Cheong Seong-Chang, Hyun-ik Hong, Hyun-Wook Kim, Lee Wang-Hwi

The incoming administration in South Korea will begin its affairs in diplomacy, national security, and unification from a very difficult environment. First of all, North Korea’s rapid advancement in nuclear and missile capabilities is likely to become a serious threat to South Korea’s security. This is because many experts from Korea and elsewhere currently forecast that North Korea will possess about 50 nuclear warheads as well as deploy intercontinental ballistic missiles and submarine-launched ballistic missiles until 2020.

While President Trump, who was elected last November, actively considers even the ‘military option’ to respond to North Korea’s nuclear and missile threat, this comes as a huge burden for the new South Korean administration. The Trump administration actively pushes China to the extent that influences China’s future actions in case of North Korea’s sixth nuclear test – reducing oil supply to North Korea and/or acquiescing in U.S. military action against North Korea.

The new administration in Seoul also has a rocky road forward in mending ties with Beijing and Tokyo. Currently, China actively cooperates with the U.S. to tackle the North Korean nuclear issue on one hand, and on the other, it is imposing economic retaliation against South Korea, strongly refuting South Korea’s THAAD deployment. And although most of the presidential candidates are in support of renegotiating the agreement on ‘comfort women,’ the Abe government refuses such posture, signaling the bumpy relations with Japan. The Korean Peninsula directly lies at the crossroads where the neighboring countries’ interests coincide. Hence, once regional dispute or collision occurs in Northeast Asia, it is inevitable for South Korea to be the direct victim of such clash.

The fact that the leaders of four neighboring powers surrounding the Korean Peninsula have nationalistic tendencies also adds to the hardship of the new administration. Besides, the northern neighbor, North Korea, also pursues a ‘nuclear weapons state.’ In order to transform this imminent crisis into an opportunity, these all call for more creative and bold views and approaches. The book deals with South Korea’s major issues ranging from the agreement on ‘comfort women,’ ROK-Japan GSOMIA, THAAD deployment, denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula, the reintroduction of U.S. tactical nuclear weapons, and South Korea’s indigenous nuclear weapon development. While the authors of each chapter suggest somewhat different policy options, it upheld the diversity of researchers to a viable degree. This is to allow the new administration to have diverse policy options in hand, and thus give flexibility to change their options based on the circumstances.

The Sejong Institute primarily stressed that, in order to take a more desirable path, policies in foreign affairs and national security should first be consistent regardless of the change in the administration. Each administration should consider both the advancements and shortcomings of the previous administrations, rather than to deny the previous administration’s stance as a whole, and should aim to maintain a consistent foreign policy. This is the way to earn trust in the international community. Second, the book made efforts to extricate itself from either the left or right ideological stance. It attempted to address policy orientation from the perspective of national interest, and not from a particular political faction. Third, instead of proposing ideal views, the book intended to design feasible policies.

This book comes as a culmination of ‘collective intelligence,’ bringing deep contemplation and heated debates among the Sejong Institute’s major fellows and experts in the academia. Nonetheless, for the new administration, these recommendations are neither simple nor easy to implement. Accordingly, the authors hope that those who read this could contribute to the formulation and execution of specific and realistic policy tasks by taking the book with a critical mind.


Volume No.: 2017-6

Publisher: The Sejong Institute

Publication Date: April 28, 2017

Paperback: 285 Pages