By Jeon Su-mi

Korea is a country where diplomacy is not easy because the Korean Peninsula is placed in a geopolitically sensitive location where continental and maritime powers collide. At this juncture of history, this is truer than ever, since liberation from Japan and the division of the peninsula. North Korea claimed completion of its nuclear weapons program in 2017 and promulgated its Nuclear Forces Policy Act in 2022.

These steps have been laying the groundwork for North Korea's potential use of nuclear weapons. In addition, the world is observing great power competitions with the United States on one side and China and Russia on the other, which could even involve military and nuclear collisions. China and Russia don't hesitate in showing their interest in territorial expansion and the fabrication of history, while the U.S. is increasingly inward-looking and self-prioritized.

Under these circumstances, the world and markets are divided by these great powers that are readjusting or securing their supply chains to create an economic structure conducive to their interests. Korea would suffer more severe security and economic damage than any other country if it fails to cope with these challenges.

In order to overcome its unfavorable geopolitical position and emerging challenges, Korea needs to come up with more rational considerations than ever over the interests and values it should secure and prioritize. Rather than a blind and ideological approach just to satisfy each party's political supporters, what is needed now is to conduct flexible diplomacy from a cool and pragmatic point of view with an appropriate mix of distancing and togetherness.

Probably President Yoon Suk-yeol and his diplomatic and national security advisers define themselves as being and doing much better than the previous Moon Jae-in administration. Koreans who voted for Yoon also expected he would revive the economy and strengthen diplomacy and security, with a dedication to liberal democracy based on fairness and common sense. His government's performance so far, however, is not only unsuccessful but also disappointing.

The Yoon administration's North Korea policy, which was announced on Aug. 15 this year is no different from the ones that had been tried by his predecessors, either conservative or progressive, in that it leaves the initiative of the game to the North Korean side. It just showed a menu of incentives that would be given to North Korea in exchange for steps toward denuclearization, which North Korea has no intention of taking.

While defining itself as business-friendly, the Yoon administration has failed to properly respond to the U.S. Inflation Reduction Act, causing enormous risk to Korean companies. The people are groaning in pain due to the depreciation of the Korean won against the U.S. dollar, soaring consumer prices, household debts and an economic recession.

Furthermore, the greatest problem of the Yoon administration's diplomacy is its indifference to creating domestic consensus. Korean society is seriously divided ideologically and an almost three-fifths majority of the National Assembly is controlled by the liberal Democratic Party of Korea. Now the president is even failing in managing his own party's internal situation.

Based on its extremely difficult geopolitical location, in Korea, the degree that the voices of citizens influence diplomacy is greater than in other liberal democratic countries.

To pursue successful foreign policy in such a country, it is indispensable to obtain as much public support as possible by avoiding unnecessary internal political complexities. What the Yoon government has been doing, however, is just repeating its political retaliation and humiliating its political opponents. In an interview with foreign media, President Yoon belittled the former president and denied his own use of profanity, laying blame on the opposition, the people and the media. How can the opposition and the media be blamed for the president's mistakes?

There are so many hurdles Korea has to overcome, including improving relations with Japan and China, technological competition, supply chain realignment, the Taiwan crisis, tightening international sanctions, the climate crisis, segregation of the world economy and potential nuclear war.

All of these challenges cannot be dealt with without solid domestic support. Korea's location is geopolitically difficult which means it is located in a very important position. Whether or not the Yoon government could turn the current crisis into an opportunity by taking advantage of Korea's geopolitical position and enhancing its status on the global stage depends heavily on its management of domestic politics.


Jeon Su-mi (
sumijeon@ssu.ac.kr), an attorney, is an invited professor at Soongsil Institute for Peace and Unification. She was a member of the Presidential Committee on Northern Economic Cooperation. Her specialty includes South Korean politics and foreign policy, North Korea politics and human rights.


QOSHE - How crisis could provide new opportunity - Guest Column
We use cookies to provide some features and experiences in QOSHE

More information  .  Close
Aa Aa Aa
- A +

How crisis could provide new opportunity

16 0 0
05.10.2022

By Jeon Su-mi

Korea is a country where diplomacy is not easy because the Korean Peninsula is placed in a geopolitically sensitive location where continental and maritime powers collide. At this juncture of history, this is truer than ever, since liberation from Japan and the division of the peninsula. North Korea claimed completion of its nuclear weapons program in 2017 and promulgated its Nuclear Forces Policy Act in 2022.

These steps have been laying the groundwork for North Korea's potential use of nuclear weapons. In addition, the world is observing great power competitions with the United States on one side and China and Russia on the other, which could even involve military and nuclear collisions. China and Russia don't hesitate in showing their interest in territorial expansion and the fabrication of history, while the U.S. is increasingly inward-looking and self-prioritized.

Under these circumstances, the world and markets are divided by these great powers that are readjusting or securing their supply chains to create an economic structure conducive to their interests. Korea would suffer more severe security and economic damage than any other country if it fails to cope with these challenges.

In order to overcome its unfavorable........

© The Korea Times


Get it on Google Play