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Is Economic Security National Security? Defining South Korea’s Economic Security for Future Industries
Author: June Park
Region: Asia
Published January 4, 2024
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This paper explores how South Korea defines “economic security.” Amidst geopolitical turbulence, the framing of this concept by governments and policy circles around the globe is reflective of the changes in the global economy post-pandemic and the ongoing war in Ukraine, two critical junctures that have revealed the geo-economic impact of weaponized interdependence. While the Biden administration has laid out U.S. policy intent to combine national security with economic security, specifically on future industries of dual-use nature ranging from chips to EVs, batteries, and generative AI, countries that are on the receiving end of policy implementation are formulating their response to the shifting geoeconomics. This paper unravels South Korea’s framing of economic security and policy response by analyzing legislation on future industries that is critical to the country’s economic growth and standing and the concerted efforts by the state bureaucracy and industry in shaping the concept. The paper draws specifically upon semiconductors in addition to other future industries that are central to the South Korean economy and related legislation in the South Korean National Assembly. It argues that South Korea’s policy response and framing of its economic security has more to do with the protection of industries for the future amid geopolitical turbulence and the reshuffling of global supply chains than traditional security issues related to the U.S.-ROK alliance. Moreover, public anxiety on the pressures toward U.S.-driven trilateral cooperation reveals concerns on a possible backlash from China and the lagging potential of Japan in future industries.

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