South Korea's (incomplete) middle-power diplomacy toward asean

Brendan Howe, Min Joung Park

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

9 Scopus citations


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, 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.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)117-142
Number of pages26
JournalInternational Journal of Asia-Pacific Studies
Issue number2
StatePublished - 2019

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
To fulfil this expected role, South Korea should consider strengthening its partnership with the ASEAN Coordinating Centre for Humanitarian Assistance on disaster management (AHA Centre). South Korea’s engagement with the AHA Centre has been limited to capacity development at the project level. So far, only one project, namely, the ASEAN Science-based Disaster Management Platform (ASDMP) project, was implemented from January 2016 to December 2017, supported by the AKCF.11 The ASDMP project was initiated by the former President Park Geun-hye during the 2014 ASEAN-ROK Commemorative Summit in Busan. President Park emphasised the need for cooperation in climate change and disaster response in the ASEAN region, and announced a landmark commitment for South Korea to help improve disaster management in the ASEAN region through its strengths in the utilisation of Information and Communications Technology (ICT) for disaster response.12

Publisher Copyright:
© Penerbit Universiti Sains Malaysia, 2019.


  • Korea's foreign policy
  • Korea-ASEAN relations
  • Middle power
  • Multilateralism


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