Korea's search for a global role between hard economic interests and soft power

Thomas Kalinowski, Hyekyung Cho

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

60 Scopus citations


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.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)242-260
Number of pages19
JournalEuropean Journal of Development Research
Issue number2
StatePublished - Apr 2012


  • Korea
  • development
  • international organizations
  • international political economy
  • international relations
  • middle power


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