South Korea’s road ahead is not easy

  On May 10, Yin Xiyue officially took office as the President of South Korea and began a five-year rule of law. For South Korea, this will be the key five years that will determine the future of the country. The key to the key is how South Korea positions itself in the international role.
  Before taking office as president, Yin Xiyue’s diplomatic path seemed to be relatively clear, such as getting close to the United States and fighting against North Korea. Of course, there is also an olive branch to Japan and “respect” to China. But these are all “skills” in Yin Xiyue’s diplomacy, and there is room for adjustment in the specific operation process.
  What really reflects Yin Xiyue’s diplomatic “dao” is his positioning of South Korea as a “global hub country”.
  In an article published in Foreign Affairs in February this year, Yoon Sek-yue wrote about her foreign policy philosophy: “South Korea should no longer be confined to the Korean peninsula, but should rise to the challenge of becoming what I describe as a ‘global hub country’. pivotal state, promoting freedom, peace and development through liberal democratic values ​​and substantive cooperation.”
  What is a “global pivotal state”? Judging from Yin Xiyue’s argument, South Korea’s diplomacy should “transcend” the Korean peninsula, take a global view and play a more important role in the world.
  In fact, this positioning is not only Yin Xiyue’s personal philosophy, but to a certain extent, it is also the “collective turn” of the Korean political elite since the beginning of the 21st century. For example, Roh Moo-hyun once proposed that South Korea should be a “balancer in Northeast Asia”, and Lee Myung-bak once proposed the concept of “global diplomacy”.
  Scott Snyder, an expert at the American Council on Foreign Relations, provides an in-depth analysis of this shift in South Korea at the Crossroads: Autonomy and Alliance in an Age of Great Power Competition. He believes that South Korea’s relative strength has steadily improved, and the narrow-minded thinking focused on the Korean peninsula has been gradually replaced by liberal internationalism; while the thinking on the United States has shifted from “alliance dependence” to “alliance partner”.
  Snyder’s judgment a few years ago has a strong explanatory power for Yin Xiyue’s diplomacy today. At present, Yin Xiyue’s “pro-American” will not be fake, but it is not accurate enough to judge that he will be completely “one-sided”. The South Korea-US alliance will be closer, but the connotation of the alliance is also undergoing subtle changes—from a purely dependent relationship to a benefit-oriented partnership.
  And this is exactly the problem, because South Korea and the United States have different understandings of “hub countries”. The famous American scholar Brzezinski mentioned several “geopolitical pivot countries” in his book “The Great Chess Game” published in 1997, including South Korea (and Ukraine, which is currently at war).
  South Korea’s growing economic power, Brzezinski wrote, has made it a more important “space” of its own, one whose control is increasingly valuable. For the United States, the hub country needs to be “controlled”. More than 20 years later, no one feels that this “American logic” has disappeared.
  On May 20, Biden will visit South Korea. Taking South Korea as the first stop of his first Asian trip since he took office as president, Biden undoubtedly took a fancy to the strategic value of South Korea as a “hub country”. Whether he will strengthen U.S. control over South Korea or give South Korea more diplomatic space does not seem to be a difficult question to answer.
  In this sense, it is difficult to say whether Biden’s “fancy” is a blessing or a curse for South Korea.

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