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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

Exit strategy: will US troops leave South Korea?

The massive Yongsan Garrison in central Seoul has seen a near-continuous presence of foreign military since the Korean Peninsula was annexed by the Japanese in 1910. Prior to that, it housed troops from the Qing Dynasty who had been sent to help the last rulers of Joseon put down peasant rebellions

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

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 the

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,

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

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

Capital flows to emerging economies: Still unresolved

This year marks the 20th anniversary of the Asian Financial Crisis. Many factors were involved in that disaster, but grossly excessive foreign capital inflows were the key macro-economic problem during the boom years preceding the crisis. These flooded out when 'euphoria turned to panic without

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

Moon river: A new course for South Korea?

Impeachment provisions are the constitutional equivalent of emergency brakes. Or perhaps a parachute or ejector seat is a better metaphor. One hopes they will never have to be used – but if they are, you pray fervently that they work properly. A polity's life and health are at stake. On that

Asia’s educational arms race

Once again East Asian countries have dominated the global education tables. In recent weeks, both the Trends in Mathematics and Science Study (TIMSS) and the OECD’s Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) published their rankings of education systems worldwide based on students’

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: