Implications: While Korea has not joined any formal coalitions aiming to check China’s influence in the Indo-Pacific, it continues to build strategic defense relationships with countries whose foreign policy posture towards Beijing is more explicit. South Korea’s growing defense ties with India – a member of the Quadrilateral Security Dialogue (Quad) – is an example of this approach. Quad members have established mutual defense cooperation strategies and hold joint military drills that respond to Beijing’s growing military assertiveness in the region. By selling arms to India, South Korea effectively bolsters the Indian military, and in turn, supports the Quad’s strategic defense efforts. While some experts believe South Korea should officially join the Quad, Korea remains wary of membership as China has frequently engaged in economic coercion against nations that interfere with its foreign policy objectives.
Context: South Korea and India have a long-term relationship both diplomatically and economically. In 1945, following Korean independence, India was part of the UN Commission overseeing the 1948 Korean elections. From there, both countries established consular relations in 1962, moving up to ambassador-level relations in 1973. Today, Korea-India relations focus heavily on commercial engagement. Hyundai’s largest foreign manufacturing site resides in India, which is also Hyundai’s largest overseas market. In 2016, “Korea Plus” was created to aid Korean investors and businesses interested in India. These economic ventures strengthened the South Korea-India partnership and serve as the foundation for further growth in the relationship.
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 Melissa Cho and Alexandra Langford. Creative Commons image from Flickr account of the Republic of Korea.