The Place of the African Coast and the Indian Ocean in the South Korean Indo-Pacific Strategy Document

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The strategy document, showing South Korea’s perspective on the Asia-Pacific Region, was published on the official website of the South Korean Ministry of Foreign Affairs on December 28, 2022, with the name “Free, Peaceful and Prosperous Indo-Pacific Region”.[1] This document contains 4 chapters and consists of 43 pages in total. The document is very important because it includes South Korea’s determinations, security framework, threat perception, cyclical attitude, strategy, point of view to actors, defense concept and foresight regarding the Indo-Pacific Region as it is called in the document. 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 assessment made over the African Coast and the Indian Ocean is important in many respects. The first of these is the geographical proximity of the African Continent and the African Coast to the Indo-Pacific Region. The other is that the Indian Ocean borders the Pacific Ocean, and this region is home to such states in the Indo-Pacific as Bangladesh, Indonesia, Christmas Island and Cocos Islands belonging to Australia, Malaysia, Myanmar, Sri Lanka, Thailand and Timor Leste.[2] At the same time, it is also very important that the Indian Ocean and the Pacific Ocean are neighbors. Because it can be argued that the strategy that South Korea will implement in this region will play a significant role in the country’s foreign policy production process at both the regional and global levels. At the same time, it can be said that Seoul’s strategy regarding this region also contains clues in terms of the defense architecture that the country plans to build.

In the African Coast and Indian Ocean section of the document, it was first said that the Indian Ocean and Africa are South Korea’s strategic partners. In this context, it was mentioned that Seoul will strengthen its cooperation with the countries on the eastern coast of Africa on the basis of mutual benefit and cooperation. As a matter of fact, at this point, it was emphasized that thia alliance would have a future-based framework.

However, it was underlined that the eastern coasts of Africa serve as a strategic gateway between Africa and the Middle East. In this context, it can be predicted that South Korea plans to follow a sea-based strategy and the importance it will attach to these regions will be shaped within this framework. Because, due to the strategic importance attributed to the coast, it can be deduced that Seoul can gain influence in a wide maritime geography from the Atlantic Ocean to the Pacific Ocean if its influence over the region increases.

Afterwards, it was stated that South Korea will host the Korea-Africa Special Summit in 2024 and this meeting will strengthen Seoul’s ties with African countries. In this context, it can be said that it will focus on soft power and summit diplomacy in the development of relations with African countries.

Then, it was emphasized that South Korea has intensified its efforts in the context of both maritime security and the fight against terrorism since 2009. Because this confirms the inference that South Korea approaches the region with a maritime-based perspective. In addition, it was said that Seoul will develop maritime security and maritime-based cooperation with the countries of the region.

At the same time, common sense was emphasized at the point of combating transnational threats. Here, it can be argued that South Korea emphasizes the sharing of responsibilities in tackling certain problems and gives the message that almost every actor should share duties in sharing responsibilities, as is the case throughout the document and in the parts related to other regions.

Afterwards, it was stated that the experiences of South Korea would be an inspiration for every country in the region and it was underlined that they would play a critical role in the construction of economic and social development processes. In this context, it can be argued that Seoul has positioned itself as a “source of inspiration” for the African Continent and Indian Ocean countries.

However, it can be said that South Korea aims to play a leading role in the development process of the region. It can be predicted that the possible leadership target, which is tried to be achieved with investments, aids and bilateral cooperation agreements, will contribute to South Korea’s regional influence in the future.

In the last part where the region in question was examined, the importance of regional organizations such as the Indian Ocean RIM Association and the Indian Ocean Commission was mentioned and it was emphasized that the Seoul administration would cooperate with these organizations within the scope of its regional strategy. As a matter of fact, this reveals the importance that Seoul attaches to international organizations among regional actors, both in terms of security and economy. Because South Korea does not only talk about state-based relations; it also refers to these organizations for the development of the region.

As a result, it can be said that South Korea approaches the African Continent, the African Coast and the Indian Ocean Region, first of all, in the context of maritime security. Especially in these regions, it can be stated that Seoul wants to see itself as a leader in terms of regional development and tries to position itself as an “inspirational” actor before the countries of the region.

[1] “Strategy for a Free, Peaceful and Prosperous Indo-Pacific Region”, Ministry of Foreign Affairs Republic of Korea,, (Date of Accession: 17.01.2023).

[2] “Countries in Asia-Pacific”, Federal Aviation Administration,, (Date of Accession: 17.01.2023).

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 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’ın çalışmalarına katkıda bulunan Gülten’in başlıca ilgi alanları; Amerikan Dış Politikası, Asya-Pasifik ve Uluslararası Hukuk’tur. Gülten, iyi derecede İngilizce bilmektedir.