By Song Kyung-jin

One question I hear more often than others these days, especially from foreign friends in Seoul and abroad, is, "When can we expect the Korean government to officially announce its Indo-Pacific strategy?" I then answer: "As promised." But in fact, I, too, am curious myself when it will come out.

Since President Yoon Suk-yeol announced that he will formulate Korea's own Indo-Pacific strategy framework when he met United States President Joe Biden on May 21, the international community welcomed it and has had high hopes of having it presented to them as soon as possible. Although the Korean government said it would make it available by the end of the year, it seems that the patience of the international community is wearing thin, wishing to know its interim progress, at least in terms of timing and substance, instead of having to keep guessing.

One can easily figure out the major difficulties surrounding formulating Korea's Indo-Pacific strategy framework. That is, the United States is its ally and China is its largest trading partner. Hence, Koreans feel its country is a shrimp among whales, despite its enhanced economic prowess and international standing. Many are suspecting that this peculiar predicament of Korea may be holding it back in making substantial progress leading up to its own Indo-Pacific strategy framework as promised.

Added to this situation, the recent moves of the United States such as the passing of the Inflation Reduction Act and the CHIPS and Science Act, often said to target China, could have weighed in with the formulation process of the Korean government.

Under all circumstances, the most fundamental and uncompromising principles to keep intact in formulating the policy framework are the core national interests. Nothing should come before the core national interests and independence as a sovereign state. As a sovereign state, Korea needs to make clear its own stance toward the United States, the Indo-Pacific countries and China. Its stance does not have to be identical to anyone's as long as it is broadly in line with the shared principles and commitment of its friends and partners.

That not all the Indo-Pacific strategies of different countries are in exact sync with one another is a valuable point to refer to. The strategy should not aim to exclude any country from the Indo-Pacific region as long as there is mutual respect for and benefits to garner from one another. It is thus critically important for Korea to establish a set of its own principles and terms for a flexible, inclusive and prosperous Indo-Pacific in its strategy framework.

While protecting its core national interests, Korea should also consider serving the interests of the region and around the world via its Indo-Pacific strategy framework. For example, the ASEAN countries and India, which were partners in the New Southern Policy of the previous government, are keen to receive reaffirmation that the good relations established under the previous initiative will not be lost but integrated into and succeeded in the forthcoming Indo-Pacific strategy framework. In the eyes of its friends and partners, Korea is just one Korea regardless of the change of administration domestically. So, trust-building with them is crucial by maintaining consistency of foreign policy, especially when a policy initiative is positively assessed by the friends and partners concerned.

Those involved in the New Southern Policy initiative hold it positively, thinking that although it was not comprehensive enough, it at least gained a foothold for further foreign policy cooperation and development and that the momentum should not be watered down. In that sense, the momentum built under the New Southern Policy can be utilized as a basis for an economic and trade subset of Korea's Indo-Pacific strategy framework.

While developing Korea's Indo-Pacific strategy framework, we should not forget that Korea's economic and diplomatic relations are not confined to some parts of the world only. In today's world, no country can afford the luxury of being able to disregard any other part of the world. It is in the world where we coexist. Therefore, Korea needs to put forward its policy principles and framework on its northern neighbors ― including Russia ― in parallel.

The combination of the two policy frameworks ― an Indo-Pacific strategy framework and a northern policy framework ― will make Korea's foreign policy fuller and wider, providing it with more strategic autonomy and thus enhanced leverage amid the U.S.-China competition and cooperation, as well as with an opportunity to add more prosperity and stability in the region and around the globe.

We are barely two months away from the end of the year, when we are finally supposed to meet Korea's Indo-Pacific strategy framework. But in the lead-up to the final version, there are those among Korean nationals as well as the international community who would be most grateful to know about some interim progress.


Dr. Song Kyung-jin (kj_song@hotmail.com) led the Institute for Global Economics (IGE), based in Seoul and served as special adviser to the chairman of the Presidential Committee for the Seoul G20 Summit in the Office of the President. Now, she is executive director of the Innovative Economy Forum.


QOSHE - Whither Korea's Indo-Pacific Strategy? - Song Kyung-Jin
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Whither Korea's Indo-Pacific Strategy?

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11.10.2022
By Song Kyung-jin

One question I hear more often than others these days, especially from foreign friends in Seoul and abroad, is, "When can we expect the Korean government to officially announce its Indo-Pacific strategy?" I then answer: "As promised." But in fact, I, too, am curious myself when it will come out.

Since President Yoon Suk-yeol announced that he will formulate Korea's own Indo-Pacific strategy framework when he met United States President Joe Biden on May 21, the international community welcomed it and has had high hopes of having it presented to them as soon as possible. Although the Korean government said it would make it available by the end of the year, it seems that the patience of the international community is wearing thin, wishing to know its interim progress, at least in terms of timing and substance, instead of having to keep guessing.

One can easily figure out the major difficulties surrounding formulating Korea's Indo-Pacific strategy framework. That is, the United States is its ally and China is its largest trading partner. Hence, Koreans feel its country is a shrimp among whales, despite its enhanced economic prowess and international standing. Many are suspecting that this peculiar predicament of Korea may be holding it back in making substantial progress leading up to its own........

© The Korea Times


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