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Building on the Middle: Diversifying South Korea’s Foreign Policy Narrative and Economic Ties
Published November 4, 2021
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The rivalry between the United States and China is affecting countries in its midst. This particularly applies to South Korea. The country is a strong economic player with a successful net of free trade agreements. Additionally, it has branded itself as a middle power, a multilateralist, and good international citizen. However, South Korea’s middle power perspective has recently assumed a literal definition of being situated in the middle of two great powers. Seoul’s dependencies on both the U.S. and China are undeniable. As the conflict intensifies, it is thus essential for South Korea to diversify its ties through trade policy and multilateral fora. This requires leaving the literal middle power definition behind and leveraging its economic standing towards an increase in international status, as well as refocusing on the figurative middle power narrative that brought the country to its initial global esteem. Through diversification and the build-up of its economic and multilateral prowess, South Korea stands to lessen the shocks of the U.S.-China rivalry. Joining RCEP and obtaining a guest role at the G7 were important steps in that direction. They offer an expansion of both regional and global ties and an involvement in discussions on the redefinition of international fora, but more can be done.

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