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© 2020 Jeffrey Robertson

Wither middle-power diplomacy and MIKTA?

Thursday, February 11, 2016

It is a well worn idea that governments seek to distinguish themselves from their predecessors. As Ravenhill notes in 'Cycles of Middle Power Activism' (AJIA, 52:3, 1998), Australian and Canadian middle-power diplomacy has shifted with changes in government: “Governments, for electoral reasons as well as to satisfy the personal vanity of their leadership, usually desire to emphasise the originality of their contribution to public policy. Rivalries—and, indeed, hatred—between individuals on opposite sides of politics (and sometimes within the same party) also are expressed in a search for differentiation”.

It strikes me that nowhere is this idea more true than South Korea. Every five years when a new presidential administration takes over, there is a rush to differentiate policy (or at least the labels that describe it).

President Lee Myung-Bak trumpeted “resource diplomacy” – with the next administration the policy was rapidly shelved (until it came time to investigate its questionable means). President Park Geun-Hye came into power trumpeting middle-power diplomacy – will the next administration rapidly shelve middle-power diplomacy?

South Korea may always be a middle-power, but will the activism needed for middle-power initiatives such as MIKTA that are so tied to the current administration continue to attract support? It may be time now for MOFA to start structuring MIKTA so it will survive a change of administration...

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