South Korea as a Middle Power: Global Ambitions and Looming Challenges
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In early December 2014, on the Air France bus route into Paris from Charles de Gaulle Airport, several neon-lit advertisements dotted the landscape against the dark sky. Among them, ads for LG, Hyundai, Samsung, and KIA stood out, symbolic of South Korea’s visible presence in continental Europe. One had to be impressed by how this country of now 50 million people has become a significant global economic power over the past sixty years, rising from the shattering experience of the Korean War as a poor developing country. It is a historical trajectory of dynamic development, unmatched by any other nation; it gives South Korea a narrative and a trajectory that continuously reinvigorates its dynamism. Today, as a result of its economic vigor, South Korea has achieved the status of a “middle power” in global relations and is a significant contributor to global governance. It is not only a member of the G20 summit group of the world’s largest economies, but also a leader in it, having hosted, in Seoul in 2010, the G20 summit—the first emerging nation to do so—and it has continuously pushed for reform and strengthening of the global system of international institutions. Questions about the ROK’s future include: What are the foundations of South Korea’s middle power status? How has it exerted global influence? And what are the challenges and prospects for South Korea’s continuing role as a constructive contributor to global governance?
Middle-Power Korea: Contributions to the Global Agenda
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