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date: 17 September 2021

Abstract and Keywords

Six decades after the Korean War, South Korea has attained economic development and global relevance. The country remains a strong US ally in a region with a possibly nuclear-armed North Korea and potentially destabilizing China-Japan rivalry. Democratization diversified the stakeholders and politics behind South Korean foreign policy. Serious divides exist between conservatives, who tend to focus on relative power balances, and progressives, who promote economic interdependence, institution building, and identity formation as a means to promote security cooperation. Despite fierce domestic debates, and notable international contributions as a middle power, options for Korean diplomacy remain constrained by the structural considerations of dealing with larger neighbors and a divided peninsula. Seoul is challenged to address widening economic inequality while allocating adequate resources for South Korea’s rising international profile and preparing for the gamut of contingencies—from conflict to peaceful reunification—with North Korea.

Keywords: Korea, security alliance, democracy, middle-power diplomacy, economic development, national unification, nuclear weapons, human rights, foreign policymaking

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