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South Korea’s (incomplete) middle-power diplomacy toward ASEAN


This paper highlights Seoul’s middle-power activism toward the most important multilateral organisation in its near abroad, the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN). It reviews how the successive administrations of Roh Moo-hyun (2003–2008), Lee Myung-bak (2008–2013) and Park Guen-hye (2013–2016) strove to assert Korean middle-powerism based on the conceptual foundations of their respective discourses. This paper argues that although South Korea’s strategic role as a middle power toward ASEAN had been limited due to the geopolitical rivalry between the United States and China, but in the future this rivalry may open a new avenue of potential to increase South Korea’s strategic role as a middle power, appealing to ASEAN and its member states. In order to make good use of this opportunity, this paper recommends South Korea to deepen and broaden its engagement of with humanitarian norm-promoting organisations within ASEAN, especially the ASEAN Intergovernmental Commission of Human Rights (AICHR) and the ASEAN Coordinating Centre for Humanitarian Assistance on disaster management (AHA Centre), and acknowledgement of the opportunity that other non-traditional security (NTS) issues provide for greater dialogue and cooperation with ASEAN.



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