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

Sejong Policy Series

Emergence and Influence of 'Strongmen': ROK's Four Neighboring Powers
2018.10.24  Wednesday
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Myon woo Lee, Jee-Kwang Park, Jae hung Chung, Jang Dukjoon
As North Korea’s nuclear and missile capabilities have been enhanced, the international relations surrounding the Korean Peninsula have taken a complex and serious trajectory. At this juncture, it is vital for South Korea to understand accurately the policies and political environment of its four neighboring countries. As such, this book examines the emergence of ‘strong leadership’ or ‘strongmanship’ markedly evident in the political changes of the four countries surrounding the Korean Peninsula – the U.S., China, Japan, and Russia.


The cases of ‘strongmen’ emerging in the U.S., China, Japan, and Russia are visible in China where President Xi is able to remain in power for life and in Russia where President Putin cruised to secure the presidency again in March 2018. While it may appear feasible in China and Russia due to the political systems, Japan, a liberal democratic country, also has shown characteristics of ‘strongmanship’ – the long-serving Prime Minister Abe paved the way for Japan to exercise the ‘right of collective self-defense,’ one thing that the post-war Japanese conservatives longed for.


U.S. President Donald Trump also has manifested tendencies of ‘strongman’ even though the strength of the leadership is questionable. Obviously, the term ‘strongmanship’ should be defined closely and the following chapter will discuss how to perceive ‘strongmanship.’ In the case of Trump, regardless of the successes of his policies, the pursuit of restrictions against immigrants and trade war reflect the ‘strongmanship’ aspect.