The Strategic Implications of Transformation in the Middle East for Korea
For much of the past month, the world has sat transfixed as the Arab World has begun to transform before our eyes. Having started in Tunisia, the call for political reforms and elections has rapidly spread through much of the Middle East and North Africa. Similar to the democratic awakening that occurred at the end of the Cold War in Europe, the outcomes in the Middle East following the Jasmine Revolution in Tunisia may turn out to be just as volatile and unpredictable, as new governments, militaries and citizens try to restore stability and build a new political future.
In 1989, Korea’s reaction to the fall of the Communist world was timely and appropriate: Nordpolitik created new trade and investment opportunities for Korea and raised the country’s international standing.
Today, Korea again faces another uncertain geopolitical future, but the stakes and risks may be even higher with the country’s economy so deeply tied to the energy resources of the Middle East. That said, with Korea's own history of democratic development and economic success, there may be opportunities for Korea to take a leadership role. Whether Seoul seizes it, we will need to watch closely.