Projecting South Korea’s Future as a Middle Power in the Arctic
Park, Jay-Kwon James
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Because of thinning of Arctic sea ice and economic opportunities such as access to natural resources and new shipping routes caused by climate change, the Arctic has become an area of interest not only of the Arctic states but also of the non-Arctic states. South Korea is one of the five Asian countries that serves as an observer in the Arctic Council. While there is a growing scholarship that analyzes South Korea’s approach and interest in the Arctic, the existing literature puts emphasis on the one-dimensional economic benefits such as shipping routes, and natural resources. However, although they do not specifically use the Arctic as an example, there is a growing body of literature that suggests that South Korea’s primary interest in international affairs is to enhance its status as a global middle power. Thus, this paper explores South Korea’s use of soft power and middle power diplomacy in the Arctic as a contemporary middle power in the current international system. Data were gathered from the official policy documents, news articles, observations from the 10th Arctic Council Ministerial meeting and the 3rd Korea Arctic Academy, peer-reviewed literature, and an analyses of South Korean activities in the Arctic. Results indicate that South Korea is utilizing the Arctic and the Arctic Council as platforms to pursue its middle power diplomacy to increase its presence in the international system as a concrete middle power.
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