South Korea’s Power Surge

Following its star turn as G20 chair in 2010, the Republic of Korea has sought to raise and broaden its global profile, using its development and security assistance abroad to bolster its influence. In this 2012 Global Asia article, Philipp Olbrich at the University of Vienna and David Shim of the German Institute of Global and Area Studies in Hamburg argue that, “while South Korea has seen an increase in its significance in international politics, it is also clear that the country is in the early stages of becoming a global actor. However, considering the state’s many achievements ― industrialization, modernization and democratization ― since its inception in 1945, a further ascent cannot be ruled out.”

Will South Korea’s global ambitions propel it to a much enhanced role on the international stage?



One thought on “South Korea’s Power Surge

  1. Moon Do Kim

    During the Joseon Dynasty, Korea had always been known as the ‘hermit kingdom’, implying its willfull closure and unwillingness to accept foreign ideologies, influences, and interaction. Following the Korean war, South Korea’s economy was one of the lowest, including comparisons with most Latin American and African countries. However, during the early 1960s, Korea soon became known as one of the Asian Tigers, referring to countries with massive rapid economic growth and potential. Although the reasons behind this could be debated, many argue that one of the main reasons is Korea’s shift from its agricultural development to an export oriented market, focusing heavly in shipbuilding, automobiles, mining, construction, armaments, and other IT dimensions, which eventually placed it to be the seventh largest exporter and tenth largest importer in the world during 2010. Although there has been a severe impact during the 1997 Asian Financial Crisis, South Korea’s economy has not yet seen its end, having noticeable power influences not only in economic issues, but also in socio-cultural aspects.
    South Korea’s gradual global influence was not only limited in the economic spheres. During ther early 1990s, the world experienced a huge boom of the so-called ‘Korean Wave’ or ‘hallyu’. This term refers to the significant increase in popularity of South Korea’s soft power influence in entertainment and culture. Although it revolved mostly in Asia and Korea’s neighboring countries, ‘hallyu’ has now reached to further locations including South America and Europe, having heavy demands on its traditional food, dramas, music, language, and much more. Furthermore, the zenith of this movement may be characterized by its recent explosion of Korea’s singer Psy and his ‘Gangnam Style’ song, which has received wide recognition over the world, including famous television shows and YouTube.
    South Korea may be regarded as a newcomer in becoming a global actor and this may be true. We must remember that it has experienced only a few decades of recognition following its tragedies over the Korean war. However, if you ask me on whether South Korea’s ambitions will propel it to a much important position in the international atmosphere, my answer is yes. As the global focus is shifting to Asia, with heavy interest in developing China and mysterious North Korea, it is undeniable that South Korea has, is, and will continue to be of great importance for not only America but for the growing globalized society.


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