The European Journal of Development Research

, Volume 24, Issue 2, pp 242–260 | Cite as

Korea's Search for a Global Role between Hard Economic Interests and Soft Power

  • Thomas Kalinowski
  • Hyekyung Cho
Original Article


South Korea has been a rising economic power for some decades. It exhibits several behavioral traits associated with rising powers such as issue leadership and opportunity seeking. Korea aims to be an issue leader in the field of development, although it seeks to secure the foundations for further sustained economic growth. In this article, we investigate Korea's global strategy since the 1990s, aiming to translate its economic clout into global political influence. The focus is placed on a critical evaluation of the approach under the current Lee Myung Bak administration since 2008. This article examines the domestic factors that have led Korea to pursue its strategies of securing influence, including most notably the legacy of the mercantilist developmental state. The article raises cautionary concerns about the capacity of Korea to adopt a foreign policy that moves beyond economic self-interest and plays an active role in the creation of global public goods.


international relations international political economy development international organizations middle power Korea 


La Corée du Sud est depuis quelques décennies une puissance économique montante. Elle présente plusieurs caractéristiques associées aux puissances émergentes, telles que le leadership thématique ou la recherche d’opportunités. La Corée souhaite jouer le rôle de leader thématique en matière de développement, et cherche dans le même temps à assurer les fondations d’une croissance économique durable. Dans cet article, nous examinons la stratégie globale mise en place par la Corée depuis les années 90 pour que sa montée économique se traduise par une plus grande influence politique sur la scène internationale. Plus spécifiquement, nous proposons une évaluation critique de l’approche depuis 2008 de l’administration actuelle de Lee Myung Bak. Nous examinons les facteurs internes qui ont conduit la Corée à poursuivre ses stratégies d’influence, en nous intéressant en particulier à l’héritage du modèle de développement mercantiliste. Cet article soulève des questions concernant la capacité de la Corée de mener une politique étrangère qui ne serve pas ses seuls intérêts économiques, mais joue un rôle actif dans la création de biens publics mondiaux.


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Copyright information

© European Association of Development Research and Training Institutes 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  • Thomas Kalinowski
    • 1
  • Hyekyung Cho
    • 2
  1. 1.Graduate School of International Studies, Ewha Womans UniversitySeoul
  2. 2.Financial Economy InstituteSeoul

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