Search All Site Content

Total Index: 6262 publications.

Subscribe to our Mailing List!

Sign up for our mailing list to keep up to date on all the latest developments.

The Raw Materials of Economic Security: South Korea’s Evolving Energy and Critical Minerals Policies in an Era of Disruption
Published January 3, 2024
Download PDF

This paper argues that resource security is central to South Korea’s broader economic security and President Yoon Suk-yeol’s Strategy for a Free, Peaceful, and Prosperous Indo-Pacific Region. The paper contends that postwar Korea has maintained an energy and minerals-intensive economy despite domestic resource scarcity and import dependence. Recent disruptions have, however, threatened the resilience of this relationship. These disruptions include COVID-19, Russia’s war in Ukraine, the escalating climate change crisis and energy transition, and the geoeconomic and geopolitical erosion of the liberal order. Korea’s most important energy security priority is diversifying its energy mix towards cleaner energy—what this paper calls “green security.” This will be a difficult task given the intense national dependence on fossil fuels and policymakers’ desire to avoid disrupting Korea’s manufacturing-heavy, export-focused development model. Korea’s idiosyncratic decarbonization pathway, including a strong presence of hydrogen and, under Yoon, a downgrading of renewables in favor of nuclear, could provide additional challenges. Critical minerals are another rising resource security concern for Seoul. The major priority is to accelerate the development and diversification of international supply chains, particularly away from China. A major obstacle to progress is intense competition across the value chain, influenced by disparate economic and strategic priorities. The paper argues that Seoul must find ways to manage its energy and critical minerals security challenges in a way that is consistent with its preferred development model. The alternative is to accept a new equilibrium in which it has less domestic dependence on foreign resources and on resources-intensive economic activity in aggregate.

This browser does not support PDFs. Please download the PDF to view it: Download PDF