The Place of Europe in South Korea’s Indo-Pacific Strategy Document

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The strategy document, which determines the country’s priorities in foreign policy, was published by South Korea on December 28, 2022, with the name “Free, Peaceful and Prosperous Indo-Pacific Region”.[1] This document consists of a total of 4 chapters and 43 pages. That document reflects the security perception and strategy, the alliance relations it has established and intends to establish, its projections, determinations, objectives and geoeconomic, geopolitical and geostrategic perspectives of the Seoul Government towards the Indo-Pacific Region.

As a matter of fact, in the last part of the second part of the document titled “Vision, Cooperation Principles and Regional Scope”, regional-based strategies are discussed. At this point, the evaluation made over Europe is of great importance in the context of both common values, the Western perspective and possible alliance relations in the future.

Just before the analysis, it is worth mentioning that Europe is geographically one of the regions most distant from the Indo-Pacific Region and South Korea among the regions examined in the entire document. Therefore, it can be said that South Korea’s examination of the region will not draw a regional security framework like the previous sections and will not call for a joint responsibility sharing at the regional level. At this point, it can be argued that global problems and global security concerns will come to the fore.

In the Europe section of the relevant part of the document, it is stated that primarily the actors in the Continental Europe are showing more and more interest in the Indo-Pacific Region, and in this context, Europe is an important ally of South Korea in the Indo-Pacific strategy. It was emphasized that South Korea would develop cooperation with European Union (EU) countries within the framework of a free, peaceful and prosperous Indo-Pacific strategy that Seoul has.

It was emphasized that the cooperation would be built on diplomatic values, and especially France, Germany and the United Kingdom (UK), which are EU member countries, were mentioned. It was underlined that these countries have common values with South Korea such as freedom, democracy and human rights.

In this context, it can be emphasized that although South Korea is geographically located in the east, it is a Western state in geopolitical and geostrategic terms. South Korea is an important ally of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) and the United States of America (USA). At the same time, Seoul is an important pillar of the Western-based partnership of the USA, Japan and South Korea, which was established in the Indo-Pacific Region. This proves that the country has Western values and conducts foreign policy within the framework of these values. Currently, this situation brings South Korea and the EU together within the framework of common values.

It was underlined that positive relations to be developed with Europe afterwards will not only strengthen the rules-based international system, but also develop new cooperations in the Indo-Pacific Region. Because at this point, it can be deduced that South Korea wants to act together with the EU and EU member states. It can be said that these cooperation goals are economically based. In this context, it can be predicted that the USA will try to consolidate and carry out the economic relations it has established with its allies in the Indo-Pacific over the EU.

In particular, with the start of Russia’s Russia-Ukraine war on February 24, 2022,[2] the EU became more consolidated and began to follow a more dependent process on Washington. This enabled the USA to reposition Russia as the “other”. From the US perspective, there are already “others” and security threats in the Indo-Pacific region, such as North Korea and China.

Moreover, in the perception of the USA, these actors do not only create regional threats. North Korea poses global threats with its nuclear power and China with its claim to hegemony. For this reason, it can be stated that it seems possible that the Washington administration will persuade the EU to make security and defense-based investments to its allies in the Indo-Pacific.

In the following part, it is stated that South Korean President Yoon Suk Yeol is the first South Korean President to attend the NATO summit in June 2022. At this summit, it was said that Yoon emphasized that Seoul and NATO have common values in democracy, the rule of law and the protection of the rules-based international system. It has been stated that South Korea will try to further increase this cooperation in the future.

This situation can be evaluated in two stages. Firstly, NATO is a security organization. It is known that South Korea is one of the states that feel the presence of North Korea and China in the Indo-Pacific Region and the concerns arising from this presence. It can be argued that this situation encouraged Seoul to develop good relations with NATO and to give positive messages about the organization.

Secondly, it can be said that the USA emphasized the enlargement of NATO. Because, directly or indirectly, NATO’s influence in the Indo-Pacific region will be a strong message for both China and North Korea. At the same time, this can be read as a security commitment made by the US to its regional allies. At this point, it can be stated that Washington is trying to intimidate both Beijing and Pyonyang and give confidence to Tokyo, Seoul and Canberra.

As a result, the explanation made through Europe in the document is very important because it includes both the concept of common values and the US perspective. As a matter of fact, it is possible to say that Seoul will try to strengthen its dialogue with the West in the upcoming period.

[1] “Strategy for a Free, Peaceful and Prosperous Indo-Pacific Region”, Ministry of Foreign Affairs Republic of Korea,, (Date of Accession: 22.01.2023).

[2] “Ukraine in Maps: Tracking the War With Russia”, BBC News,, (Date of Accession: 22.01.2022).

Zeki Talustan GÜLTEN
Zeki Talustan Gülten, 2021 yılında Yalova Üniversitesi İktisadi ve İdari Bilimler Fakültesi Uluslararası İlişkiler Bölümü’nden “Amerikan Dış Politikası” başlıklı bitirme teziyle ve 2023 yılında da Anadolu Üniversitesi Açık Öğretim Fakültesi Dış Ticaret bölümünden mezun olmuştur. Halihazırda Marmara Üniversitesi Sosyal Bilimler Enstitüsü Uluslararası İlişkiler Anabilim Dalı’nda Tezli Yüksek Lisans öğrenimine devam eden Gülten, lisans eğitimi esnasında Erasmus+ programı çerçevesinde Lodz Üniversitesi Uluslararası ve Politik Çalışmalar Fakültesi’nde bir dönem boyunca öğrenci olarak bulunmuştur. ANKASAM’da Asya-Pasifik Araştırma Asistanı olarak çalışan Gülten’in başlıca ilgi alanları; Amerikan Dış Politikası, Asya-Pasifik ve Uluslararası Hukuk’tur. Gülten, iyi derecede İngilizce bilmektedir.