South Korea as a middle power: capacity, behavior and now opportunity

South Korea in terms of physical, economic, and military capacity is often considered as a middle power. However, such a definition sits uneasily given South Korea’s past foreign policy behavior and its limited success in garnering coalition support for recent initiatives dealing with North Korean issues. Effectively, South Korea is representative of the dichotomy that exists between middle-power classifications based on foreign policy behavior and those based on measurements of capacity. Recognizing the constituent differences between emerging middle powers and traditional middle powers, and their ability to evolve from one into the other, allows for a better explanation of South Korea’s recent foreign policy behavior. South Korea has rapidly evolved into a traditional middle-power state. This is reflected in its aim to maintain the status quo and its tendencies towards compromise, coordination, and cooperation in foreign policy behavior. This paper determines how South Korea’s status as a traditional middle power affects its aims and methods on Korean peninsula issues, and how this will affect policies in the aftermath of the agreement reached at the Six-Party Talks in Beijing on February 13, 2007.

Keywords: middle-powers, South Korea, South Korea’s foreign policy, Six-Party Talks, The February 13 Agreement

20070101 IJKUS
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"South Korea as a middle power: capacity, behaviour and now opportunity", International Journal of Korean Unification Studies, June 2007.