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Foreign policy 3

From Diplomatic Diversification to Power Balancing: Late 1990s to Mid-2000s
 
The democratization-leading, opposition party that came to power in Korea in 1998 introduced groundbreaking changes into the Korean policy of diplomatic diversification that have continued since the end of the Cold War. With a new government in place, Korea reached beyond mere diversification and sought to play a role in maintaining the balance of power worldwide. The peaceful balance of power necessarily posits the presence of multiple superpowers as well as middle states capable of maintaining or transforming the status quo. This aim at maintaining the current balance of power naturally reflected the increasing stature and influence of Korea on the world stage. However, the attempts by the Kim Daejung and Roh Muhyun administrations to stake out a greater position for Korea amid today’s uni-multipolar world order also contributed to deepening political antagonisms on the domestic front.
 
(1) Domestic and International Conditions
The “uni-multipolar world” became the key concept capturing the state of world affairs following the Cold War. Table 2-1 shows that the United States still single-handedly leads the world in terms of military strategy and security. Since its victory over the Soviet Union in the armament race, there has yet to emerge a country to challenge the military superiority of the United States. The United States alone spends approximately one half of the total military spending recorded worldwide. The aggregate military spending of the second through tenth most spending states barely manages to occupy two-thirds of the United States’ military spending. On the economic front, however, a multipolar world order is in the making, marked by increasing competition among the United States, China, India, Japan, and the European Union. The EU already surpasses the United States in terms of GDP. The United States is now merely one among multiple superpowers in terms of GDP based on purchasing power.

The current uni-multipolar world order is anticipated to persist for decades to come. The United States is able to spend such an overwhelming amount on its military, notwithstanding its economic decline, thanks to a nationwide consensus on the need to maintain such a spending level. The EU and Japan, on the other hand, lack a comparable public consensus and are unlikely to increase their military spending dramatically, at least for the time being. China and India are still busy at work ensuring the development of their economies, and consequently lean more toward driving economic growth than diverting their investment into military spending. So long as the United States maintains its military spending, which is five times as great as that of the EU, the current distribution of economic power will persist, and so long as China and India remain steadfastly focused on economic rather than military expansion, the uni-multipolar order will remain intact as a self-sustaining mechanism.

Even though the Foreign Exchange Crisis of the late 1990s may have served Korea a major blow, the Korean economy continued to grow after a brief period of structural readjustment. Although there are signs of slowdown, Korea still fares quite well in comparison to other states of similar size and economy. Korea is now one of a dozen or so of the richest countries in the world, and ranks around 20th in terms of economic development (Heston et al., 2006). As Korean politics have matured, the peaceful and democratic transition of power has become an unobjectionable norm. Domestic stability and growth has thus provided the Korean government with the fertile ground it needs for the innovative diplomatic pursuits it seeks out today.
 
[Table 2-1] Uni-Multipolar World Order
 

Rank GDP (2006) Military spending (2006)
State GDP (PPP; USD) State Spending (USD)
1 United States 13.2018 trillion United States 528.7 billion
2 China 10.48 trillion United Kingdom 59.2 billion
3 India 4.2474 trillion France 53.1 billion
4 Japan 4.1312 trillion China 49.5 billion
5 Germany 2.616 trillion Japan 43.7 billion
6 United Kingdom 2.1116 trillion Germany 37 billion
7 France 2.392 trillion Russia 34.7 billion
8 Italy 1.7954 trillion Italy 29.9 billion
9 Brazil 1.7084 trillion Saudi Arabia 29 billion
10 Russia 1.7047 trillion India 23.9 billion
  South Korea (13th) 1.14 trillion South Korea (11th) 21.9 billion

Source: Stockholm International Peace Research Institute 2007; World Bank 2007

Source: Korea Institute of Public Administration. 2008. Korean Public Administration, 1948-2008, Edited by Korea Institute of Public Administration. Pajubookcity: Bobmunsa.