Faculty of Education, Social Sciences and Law

School of Politics and International Studies

Research Student: Dr Min-Hyoung Park

Alliance Theory and Republic of Korea's Dynamic Alliance Strategy under a Turbulent Environment in Northeast Asia

Photo of Dr Min-Hyoung Park

For the last 50 years, maintaining a strong bilateral alliance with the United States has been the main South Korean alliance strategy. The advent of different views, such as a divergence of threat perceptions between the two countries, however, is forcing a redefinition of the ROK-US alliance and the establishment of a more reasonable alliance strategy for the future.

Yet, according to a survey conducted in the United States and South Korea regarding both countries’ mid to long term security interests on the Korean peninsula, the prevailing consensus is that the ROK-US alliance continues to serve these interests. There are many common interests between South Korea and United States. This means that the alliance can proceed to last for a long time.

Therefore, South Korea should attempt to make the alliance more equal by basing it on these common interests. In 1996, the alliance between US and Japan was redefined based on their status in the international community. Thus, in order for the Republic of Korea to make sound alliance strategies, it should start from the beginning.

These days, the meaning of security has been broadened to include a wider range of phenomena including even economic and environmental factors. Generally, the concept of security before the 1970s just focused on military aspects. Since the 1970s, however, the concept has been comprehensive and this trend has become more definite since the end of Cold-War and the 9.11 terrorist attacks in 2001.

In other words, economic, societal, and even environmental parts have been considered as one of the critical fields for a state's security. Thus, one state's security can be now threatened in various areas, such as international terrorism, drug trafficking, weapons of mass destruction, and by natural disasters. In this respect, the meaning of alliance as one of the policies for a state’s security should be broadened and redefined in harmony with the current security environment.

The Republic of Korea, therefore, should try to define the asymmetrical aspects of the alliance, so as to achieve a more equal relationship with the United States and make a sound alliance strategy for the future based on the expanded definition of security and rapidly changing security environment in Northeast Asia.

Today the East Asian region has emerged as one of the most dynamic areas of the world in terms of security. The changes in the environment surrounding the Korean peninsula have been especially rapid and dramatic. North Korea's nuclear test on October 9th 2006 and second inter-Korean summit which was held in Pyoung-Yang in October 2007 are good cases in point.

In such a situation, the formation of sound alliance strategies, even if the two Korea’s unify or the threat from North Korea is neutralised, remains one of the most significant factors for the maintenance of South Korea's security. Therefore, the purpose of this dissertation is to find the optimal alliance strategies of South Korea in the rapidly changing international society.

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