Tuesday 21 Aug 2018 | 14:59 | SYDNEY
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South Korea

Moon deepens civilian control in South Korea

South Korean President Moon Jae-in has initiated a major overhaul of the Defense Security Command, a military intelligence unit, in the wake of revelations about its politicisation during the impeachment process last year of former president Park Geun-Hye. This scandal has roiled

The struggle to conclude peace in Korea

The border separating North and South Korea remains one of the most heavily armed in the world. Surrounded by thickets of barbed wire, Korea’s misleadingly named Demilitarised Zone (DMZ) stretches about 250 kilometres across the peninsula. It is monitored ceaselessly, a stark reminder of the

The discord in the Korean peace process

Last week, the South Korean Blue House announced preparations for another  summit – what will be the third – between President Moon Jae-in and North Korea’s Chairman Kim Jong-un in the northern autumn. Both Seoul and Pyongyang have sent ministers to discuss topics

The women taking on spycams in South Korea

One recent Saturday in August, in the middle of a heatwave with the temperature hitting 35 degrees, 70,000 women gathered in the streets of Seoul. The numbers were unprecedented, but the action wasn’t. They have been staging regular rallies since May, in what has been called the biggest recorded

Idols in South Korea and Japan

The music industries in Japan and South Korea are entwining. K-pop idols can successfully sell albums in Japan, and Japanese singers can join K-pop groups. However, in a reflection of national rivalries, there will always be friction between the two competing industries. K-pop has enjoyed a boom

South Korea’s first “human rights president"

Moon Jae-In has been president of South Korea for fifteen months so far. On the whole, he is a marked improvement on his predecessor, Park Geun-Hye. President Park was, of course, impeached and removed. For that alone she will go down in the history books as a poor president. Bizarrely, Park

Détente divergence: the US-South Korean split

Reactions in the US and South Korea have differed sharply since US President Donald Trump met North Korean supreme leader Kim Jong-un last month in Singapore. (The president and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo call Kim “chairman”, because he governs as the chairman of the State Affairs

Reunification out of reach

The Trump–Kim summit in Singapore was the first step towards persuading North Korea to join the few countries that have relinquished nuclear weapons. It also presents the best chance since the Clinton administration’s breakthroughs in 2000 to normalise relations.  But

It’s all up to Moon now

The Trump–Kim summit last week in Singapore was a nothingburger – not good or bad, just nothing new really at all. After months of hype, including grossly inflated talk of CVID (complete, verifiable, irreversible disarmament) and a Nobel prize, US President Donald Trump’s meeting with North

Trump–Kim summit: Moon’s conflicted achievement

North Korean Chairman Kim Jong-un scored a huge diplomatic victory on Tuesday when he finally got the chance to hold a summit with US President Donald Trump, a feat his grandfather and father never achieved. In addition to the credit Kim and Trump received for their courageous acts, South

Talking North Korea in Australia

This month, I was in Australia for events hosted by the Lowy Institute and Sydney Writers’ Festival respectively. The questions were excellent, and I would like to take advantage of this space to expand on some of the topics brought up. Generally speaking, the questions at

Deciphering symbols at the inter-Korean summit

North Korean leader Kim Jong-un’s charm offensive continues with his first meeting with South Korean President Moon Jae-in in the Demilitarized Zone on Friday. At the end of the third Inter-Korean summit, the two leaders inked the Panmunjom Declaration to show their commitment to the

Why definitions will be crucial for North-South talks 

In just over a week, President of South Korea Moon Jae-in will sit with his northern counterpart, Supreme Leader of North Korea Kim Jong-un, at Panmunjom, the historic site of the 1953 armistice, for the third instalment of the inter-Korean summit (to be broadcast live). The summit will occur

The peril of North Korea’s charm offensive

Since the first days of 2018, North Korean leader Kim Jong-un has undertaken a series of diplomatic activities whose scope and significance are rivalled only by his missile and nuclear tests. The fact that Kim made his first overseas trip to China, attended a K-pop performance in Pyongyang,

Watching on: Australia and the Korean Peninsula talks

South Korean President Moon Jae-in and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un are scheduled to meet for the first time on 27 April at Panmunjom, the “truce” village on the border of the two countries. The rapidly changing security environment on the Korean Peninsula has reached a critical juncture.

An agenda for the Moon–Kim summit

Later this month, South Korean President Moon Jae-in will meet North Korean leader Kim Jong-un. This is the third inter-Korean summit since the days of the Sunshine Policy – an approach of open dialogue with North Korea from 1998 to 2008. That effort earned a Nobel Peace Prize, but previous

North Korea’s time-buying strategy

Now that the PyeongChang Winter Olympics is over, both South and North Korea can be satisfied with what they gained from the sporting event. South Korea’s Moon Jae-in administration scored a major diplomatic victory with the attendance of Kim Jong-un’s sister, Kim Yo-jong, at the&

Moon versus Abe and the contest for America’s ear

A battle is underway between Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and South Korean President Moon Jae-in over their differing approaches to North Korea. They are competing to shape the attitudes of US President Donald Trump, and this contest has been a compelling sideshow at the PyeongChang Winter

Jonghyun and depression in South Korea

It was a difficult Christmas for the community dedicated to K-pop, the South Korean music genre that in recent years has become an international phenomenon. On 18 December 2017 the lead singer of influential K-pop band SHINee was found unconscious in a hotel, and was later declared dead in

Asia’s escalating missile race

If the Cold War was one long arms race, the modern era could be accurately described as an arms jog. Countries are defined less by how many nuclear warheads they have, and more by what they can do with them. This is particularly the case in Australia’s immediate region, where a

North Korea probably does not seriously seek unification

After North Korea burnished its credentials last year as a nuclear-armed state, there's been much discussion about what Pyongyang aims to do with its nuclear missiles. The panic in the western media has been palpable. But so is the contrast with the South Korean media's more sanguine response. I

South Korea’s search for autonomy

'When caught in a fight between whales, a shrimp gets his back broken.' This old Korean proverb has been used to describe Korea being stuck between great power rivalries. As Chinese-US competition intensifies, Seoul is now struggling not to have its back broken, navigating between two whales. As

The symbolic politics of the Dokdo/Takeshima dispute

In recent years, maritime disputes have become highly visible microcosms of broader contests in the Indo-Pacific region. While much attention has been paid to disputes in the South China and East China Sea, a lower profile dispute has bubbled away for years between South Korea and Japan over a

The Korean Peninsula’s year in review

This has been a rollercoaster year for the Korean Peninsula. The South Koreans impeached their president. The North Koreans tested dozens of rockets, including intercontinental ballistic missiles. The US President repeatedly threatened war, possible nuclear war, against the North. And some

Why South Korea and Japan should not go nuclear

By David Vallance, an intern in the Lowy Institute's International Security Program, and Euan Graham, Director of the International Security Program. The road to nuclear Armageddon is not straight. The North Korea crisis has led commentators to reassess the conventional wisdom that, when it

War on the Korean Peninsula: Targeting a better peace

The rhetoric emanating from Washington and Pyongyang may soon reach the point at which a peaceful resolution is no longer be possible. A year ago the chance of war on the Korean Peninsula would have been considered remote. Now, the call for a US pre-emptive strike is gaining support while North

Australia and Korea’s wars: A debate worth revisiting

Tensions have temporarily abated on the Korean Peninsula, following the latest blustery exchanges between Washington and Pyongyang. In typically mercurial fashion, after threatening 'fire and fury', President Donald Trump has now praised Kim Jong-un’s 'decision' not to launch missiles at Guam as '

Australia and Korea’s wars

In light of recent discussion about Australia's responsibilities under the Korean Armistice Agreement, we are republishing this post that first appeared on 29 November, 2010. In 1985, I published a paper entitled 'Australia and the Republic of Korea: Still Allies or Just Good Friends'. I had not

Learning to live with a North Korean ICBM

Last week’s test launch of an intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) by North Korea raises the time-honored question of East Asian international relations: what to do with a neo-feudal, cold war-relic wildly out of touch with the modernising ethos of the fast developers of this region? North

Back in focus: The United Nations Command in South Korea

Following his recent speech at the Shangri-la Dialogue in Singapore, US Secretary of Defense James Mattis was asked a question about North Korea. This excerpt from his answer should be of interest to Australians, among others: We obviously work very, very closely with the United Nations Command.

In China, changing online attitudes towards Korea

Additional research by Zixin Wang, an intern in the Lowy Institute's East Asia Program. Shen Zhihua, a world-renowned Chinese scholar of the Cold War, recently proposed that 'North Korea is China's latent enemy and South Korea could be China's friend'. His comments, made at Dalian University of

South Korea’s dangerous drift

The tragedy of the Park Geun-hye scandal and impeachment in South Korea should not obfuscate the larger forces that are driving Korean politics. The political pendulum had been shifting towards the left prior to the impeachment – the recent troubles only hastened it. Now, with the likely election

South Korea lost without its mojo

Last week I visited the Republic of Korea (ROK), where I had the opportunity to meet with officials, think tankers and journalists. My impression is that South Koreans feel set upon. And why wouldn’t they? A year ago, the country seemed to be ticking along quite nicely, with a stable political

North Korea: The case for engagement

Earlier this month the Lowy Institute's International Security Program, supported by the Korea Foundation, hosted the Australia-Republic of Korea (ROK) Emerging Leaders International Security Forum in Sydney and Canberra, bringing together scholars and future policymakers focused on the

South Korea-Japan relations: Threat and identity

In May 2012, Japan and Australia signed a bilateral information-sharing agreement. There was little media coverage in either country and neither government faced any political backlash. In the same year, Japan and South Korea were supposed to sign a similar agreement with the inelegant acronym

The crisis in Seoul and risks to the region

South Korea is engulfed in a month-long national crisis that has brought politics to a standstill, and the timing could not be worse for the Korean Peninsula and the region. A president in name only The headlines out of Seoul over the past month have been one head-scratcher after another: