Korea’s ‘New Southern Policy’ Towards India: An Analysis

Date01 June 2020
Published date01 June 2020
DOI10.1177/0973598420906248
Subject MatterArticles
Article
1 Department of East Asian Studies, Faculty of Social Sciences, University of Delhi, Delhi,
India.
Corresponding author:
Dr. Ranjit Kumar Dhawan, Korean Studies, Department of East Asian Studies, Faculty of
Social Sciences, University of Delhi, Delhi 110007, India.
E-mail: rkdhawan13@hotmail.com
Korea’s ‘New
Southern Policy’
Towards India:
An Analysis
Ranjit Kumar Dhawan1
Abstract
The Moon Jae-in administration in South Korea (hereafter Korea)
initiated the ‘New Southern Policy’ in 2017 to foster closer relations
with ASEAN and India and bring them at par with the four major
powers—the United States of America (USA), China, Russia and Japan,
which have traditionally played a dominant role in Korea’s foreign affairs.
Korea’s strategy through this new policy has been to diversify its foreign
relations and lessen dependence on these four major powers of the
Northeast Asian region. In this policy shift India is projected as one of the
key partners for Korea. However, there has not been much progress in
Korea’s relations with India in the last 2 years. The New Southern Policy
is also not compatible with US-led ‘Indo-Pacific strategy’ in which India
is an integral component. This article argues that Seoul’s New Southern
Policy toward New Delhi shall remain limited and would largely focus on
developing economic relations rather than building security cooperation
between the two countries.
Keywords
Korea, India, New Southern Policy, Indo-Pacific strategy, economic
relations, strategic relations
Jadavpur Journal of
International Relations
24(1) 53–72, 2020
2020 Jadavpur University
Reprints and permissions:
in.sagepub.com/journals-permissions-india
DOI: 10.1177/0973598420906248
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54 Jadavpur Journal of International Relations 24(1)
Introduction
The geographical and strategic location of the Korean Peninsula has
made it an arena of contestation and rivalry between major powers in
the Northeast Asian region since historical times. Therefore, Koreans
have often referred to their country as ‘a shrimp surrounded by the
whales’. After the end of World War II and liberation of Korean
Peninsula from the brutal Japanese colonial rule (1910–1945), it
again became a victim of rivalry between the two superpowers of the
Cold War period as the country got divided along the 38th northern
latitude or 38th parallel into ‘North’ and ‘South’ Korea. In 1948 the
United Nations (UN) organized an election which led to the
establishment of the Republic of Korea (South Korea or Korea) in the
areas south of the 38th parallel as North Korea did not participate in
this election. Korean War (1950–1953) was an effort by North Korea
to reunify the Korean Peninsula forcibly, but it turned into an
international conflict and was highly devastating to the Korean
people. Since then Korea’s foreign policy has been largely shaped by
the four major powers of the Northeast Asian region, which are the
United States of America (USA), Japan, China, and Russia. Therefore,
Seoul has been devising various policies from time to time to build
economic and strategic partnerships with other influential and
emerging regions of Asia and reduce dependence on these four major
powers. In this context the Association of Southeast Asian Nations
(ASEAN) has remained at the core for Korean policy makers. In the
post-Cold War period India has also been gaining significance in
Korea’s foreign affairs, mainly because of the rising economic power
and regional influence of this South Asian country. As a result, the
Moon Jae-in administration after coming to power in 2017 has
initiated ‘New Southern Policy’ to diversify Korea’s foreign relations
and develop closer economic and strategic relations with other
powers and regions in southern Asia. In this policy shift India is
projected as one of the key partners for Korea (Kumar 2018).
However, contrary to the claims of several scholars, India’s relations
with Korea remain limited and have not witnessed dramatic
improvement under the Moon Jae-in administration in Seoul. This
article argues that Seoul’s New Southern Policy toward New Delhi
shall remain limited and would largely focus on strengthening
economic relations rather than building security cooperation between
the two countries.

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