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South Korea : The Asian Tiger in the 21st Century

Picture of Lou Recchi

Lou Recchi

Étudiante en bachelor de sciences politiques et de relations internationales à Heip, je suis passionnée par l’écriture et l’actualité.
On Thursday March 7, we were honored to welcome His Excellency Choi Jai Chul, Ambassador of the Republic of Korea to France, for an academic lecture. As a professional diplomat, he has devoted a large part of his career to multilateral diplomacy, providing us with valuable insights into South Korea, its positions and perspectives in global international relations.

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CS ACTU with His Excellency Choi Jai Chul
CS ACTU with His Excellency Choi Jai Chul

A Complex History

South Korea has faced enormous challenges throughout its history, including Japanese occupation from 1910 to 1945 and the Korean War from 1950 to 1953. Despite these trials, the country has shown remarkable resilience and has tackled these challenges with determination. A major turning point occurred with what is known as the “Han River Miracle” in 1961. Indeed, it marked a decisive transition towards modernization and economic growth.

This “miracle” refers to the period of spectacular and rapid economic growth experienced by South Korea starting in the 1960s. During this time, the South Korean government implemented bold economic policies, focusing on industrialization, exports, and significant investments in education and infrastructure. These measures resulted in rapid GDP growth, significant improvements in the standard of living, and a radical transformation of the South Korean economy, propelling it from an agricultural economy to one of the world’s leading industrialized economies.

Today, the division between North and South Korea remains a major challenge. North Korea’s provocations, including the launch of ballistic missiles, demand a concerted response from the international community. China plays a crucial role in managing these tensions, while South Korea adopts a bold initiative called the “3D approach” – a combination of deterrence, dialogue, and diplomacy in the face of North Korean threats.

South Korea: The Epicenter of Dynamic Asian Momentum

South Korea, a dynamic nation in East Asia, stands out for its remarkable progress in political, economic, and cultural spheres. With a democracy index of 8.08/10, it ranks among the strongest democracies in the world, while its GDP in 2022 reached $1.7 trillion, placing it 13th globally. This economic prosperity is supported by an annual growth rate of 2.6% in 2022, reflecting the vigor of its development.

Moreover, South Korea distinguishes itself through its leadership in cutting-edge sectors such as digital technologies, while pursuing a green growth strategy with ambitious commitments to reduce CO2 emissions and achieve carbon neutrality by 2050.

Diplomatic Endeavors

South Korea maintains a strong alliance with the United States for 70 years, characterized as a global and comprehensive strategic partnership at the May 2022 summit. Relations with the European Union are also strengthening, shifting from primarily economic focus to closer political ties since the 1990s. Furthermore, historical tensions with Japan are gradually easing, marked by frequent exchanges of visits and dialogues.

Regarding the crisis in Ukraine, South Korea advocates for Ukraine’s sovereignty and actively participates in peace efforts, while imposing sanctions against Russia. It also promotes an Indo-Pacific strategy aimed at establishing a regional order based on norms and cooperation.

The Korean Wave: Seoul, Capital of a Global Culture

Korean culture, driven by phenomena such as K-pop, with iconic groups like BTS, and K-dramas, is experiencing a rapid rise on a global scale. This cultural wave from Seoul, a city of 10 million inhabitants, captivates an ever-growing international audience. Indeed, South Korea has seen the number of tourists quadruple in just 15 years, drawn by the allure of its dynamic and diverse culture.

This cultural effervescence has also fostered the emergence of content creators and the cultivation of talent in areas such as dance and music. K-dramas, with their captivating and universal stories, are sweeping screens worldwide, reaching audiences of all backgrounds and cultures.

The number of Korean culture fans is estimated at around 180 million worldwide, reflecting its growing global influence. In France, which is among the most fervent followers of Korean culture, it is estimated that over 500,000 people are devoted fans of K-pop, K-dramas, and other aspects of Korean culture. As such, France has become the epicenter of the Korean wave in Europe, symbolizing the extent of the enthusiasm for Korean culture worldwide.

Despite challenges, South Korea embodies an example of resilience, innovation, and cooperation, thus shaping its future in an ever-changing world.

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