Implication: South Korea remains focused on diversifying its commercial ties. China’s economic retaliation in response to Seoul’s decision to deploy U.S. anti-ballistic missiles in 2017 may have sharpened the need to hedge against geopolitical fallout with the country’s largest trade partner. Policy observers also point to non-traditional security reasons for diversification, including disruptions to the global supply chain. President Moon’s efforts to build ties in the Middle East parallels engagements in Southeast Asia and echoes previous administrations’ investments in maintaining good relations with resource-rich countries.
Context: Seoul’s engagement with the Middle East goes back to the 1970s when rising incomes from oil exports allowed countries in the Persian Gulf to initiate ambitious civil engineering projects with South Korean firms. In recent years, commitments by oil-rich countries like Saudi Arabia to reach net-zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2060 have created new opportunities to revive this old partnership to pursue renewable energy generation.
This briefing comes from Korea View, a weekly newsletter published by the Korea Economic Institute. Korea View aims to cover developments that reveal trends on the Korean Peninsula but receive little attention in the United States. If you would like to sign up, please find the online form here.
Korea View was edited by Yong Kwon with the help of Kayla Harris, David Lee, Sarah Marshall, and Mai Anna Pressley. Picture from Flickr account of HISHAM BINSUWAIF