South Korea as Middle Power

Topics: South Korea, International relations, North Korea Pages: 14 (4246 words) Published: May 27, 2014


































South Korea as a Middle Power and Its Unpredictable Future
I- Introduction
Historically, the international system has been changed from time to time and the global politics noticeably have been re-shaped after the Second World War regarding the function of states, rules and processes of global governance 1 . The roles of some traditional powers have been placed by many emerging powers, which have played actively role in the system. The new players in the current system are known as “middle powers”, and this concept is popular since after the Cold War. Some scholars in 1979, based on economic capacities as an indicator, defined the highest top-ten GNP states as middle powers, which included Italy, China, Canada, Brazil, Spain, Netherlands, India, Poland, Australia, and Mexico2. Recently, the informal group of five countries called MIKTA, which was an initiative of South Korea, also identified themselves as middle powers. This group, Mexico, Indonesia, Korea, Turkey, and Australia, claimed to work together for international community’s development as the group of middle powers3. II- The Incomplete Definitions of Middle Power

The questions of what the real middle powers are and how to define the status of middle powers still remain as the continuous debates. Economic capacity based on GNP, which mentioned in 1979, is not enough. Professor Gareth Evans, a former foreign minister of Australia, who put his country and Chile as middle powers, defined the concept of middle power based on GDP, the size of population, geographical position, military capacity, and the roles that those states play in the current global governance4 . Most frequently, however, three common approaches have contributed to define the meaning of middle power: function, capacity, and behavior.

Functional Approach
Hume Wrong, a Canadian diplomat argued that to understand the concept of middle power, functional approach, or “functional principle” in his own word, should come to the first principle to be explained. Based on his principle, middle power states are those



who can extent of its involvement, interests, and abilities to contribute to the current situation of the global governance. Lionel Gelber, another Canadian diplomat, argued that the function of middle power is an important criteria to differentiate middle power from the small powers and the major powers, and the voices in making decisions should be strong and the key5.

Capacity Approach
Not to mention creditability, capacity or capability is another important criteria to define the definition of middle power because capacity is power, generally. Among others, capacities here refer to economics, politics, military, information, psychological, population, territory, technology, infrastructure, natural resources etc. Capacity is a key principle to check if a country is playing as a middle power role or not in the system6. Thus, those states, which are ranked in the middle of those capacities, are called “middle power” states7. South Korea has share many characteristics of this second definition regarding its current economic, technology, infrastructure, and military capacity etc. Behavioral Approach

The last but not least common definition is based on behavioral approach. This approach refers to the...

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