Dr. Eric Mobrand, South Korea and the Possible Meanings of the “Indo-Pacific”

  • Title: South Korea and the Possible Meanings of the “Indo-Pacific”
  • Date: Friday, Mar 3rd, 2023
  • Time: 3:30-5:00PM (PST)
  • Location: Choi 351, C.K. Choi Building
  • Speaker: Dr. Erik Mobrand (Associate Professor in Seoul National University)
  • Bio: Erik Mobrand is Korea Policy Chair and a senior political scientist at the RAND Corporation. He joined Seoul National University’s Graduate School of International Studies as an associate professor in 2016. Erik is the author of Top-Down Democracy in South Korea (University of Washington Press, 2019). He taught previously at the National University of Singapore.
  • Abstract: Seoul recently adopted the “Indo-Pacific” language espoused by Washington and Tokyo. South Korea was among the last major American partners in the region to embrace this language. That reluctance can be attributed to a long-standing view, shared by different political perspectives in South Korea, that the alliance with the United States was and should be focused specifically on defence against North Korea. The regional implications of the Indo-Pacific vision depart from that view. The Korean Indo-Pacific Strategy, as it has been outlined, sounds a good deal like the American one. Given that foreign ministry officials tasked with thinking about the United States designed the strategy, this outcome is perhaps unsurprising. On the other hand, South Korea has become deeply networked in South and Southeast Asia in ways that depart from the American Indo-Pacific policy. It is odd that Asia would look the same from Seoul as it would from Washington. In practice, the “Indo-Pacific” – among several other terms in Seoul’s new diplomacy – remains woefully underspecified. This lack of definition can be an opportunity for Koreans, working with partners, to give meaning to terms that will matter for the future of the region and for trans-Pacific relations.