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Foreign Minister Park Jin Discusses South Korean Diplomacy With Students at King’s Event

South Korean flag
South Korean flag

Foreign Minister for South Korea Park Jin visits King’s College London (KCL) to discuss diplomatic relations between South Korea and the UK.

What is the Republic of Korea up to? An East Asian hub of democracy and prosperity, South Korea is an interesting country. King’s hosted a visit by Foreign Minister Park on 28 September, providing an excellent occasion for interested students. However, this meeting was not only a visit to a prestigious university in London. At the Council Room, Minister Park represented South Korean leadership’s strong desire for closer relations with the West in general and the Atlantic alliance in particular.

Minister Park has a personal history in the UK. He obtained his PhD at St. Anthony’s College, Oxford in politics and was a MacArthur Foundation fellow at King’s for a year. He was also president of the Korea-Britain society for 13 years. He spent years studying, lecturing, and forging relations between the two countries.

The Minister visited King’s in a celebratory period for Korea-UK relations. This year will count toward 140 years since the signing of the “Treaty of Friendship and Commerce” between the two countries. The signing of the treaty is marked as the beginning of diplomatic relations by politicians in both countries. The celebrations have been taking place in the diplomatic field, to the backdrop of the conflict in Ukraine and China’s intentions in East Asia.

Professor Pacheco Pardo and Professor Olonisakin from the School of Global Affairs and School of Politics & Economics were the hosts of the meeting at the Council Room, located in the King’s building. Postgraduate students had the opportunity to talk to the Minister and hear about diplomatic practice in East Asia. The academic background of the Minister and experience at King’s made illuminating conversation about the study of politics and life at KCL.

Korea has been receiving more attention in recent years for two reasons. Firstly, the overall economic development of East Asia during the last forty years has created new opportunities in the region. Secondly, policymakers in the US believe that East Asia (“Indo-Pacific” according to the document) is the most important region for geopolitics due to China’s ambitions for regional hegemony. Korea is part of this two-fold story because it has become a prosperous free-market economy, and the Korean peninsula remains as an arena for competition between the US and China. Roar Editor-in-Chief Fintan Hogan published an overview piece earlier this year about the competition for East Asia and Korea’s position in it.

President Yoon Suk Yeol of Korea believes that Korea must work closely with it’s allies for national security in this environment. Minister Park expressed this clearly by referring to the relations between Korea and the UK in a recent interview with the Times. He said that Korea shares “core values with Britain”, the country that was “the original advocate of democracy”. Hence, Minister Park’s visit to King’s was a personal demonstration of commitment to the rules-based international order. For students who are interested in Korea’s foreign policy, Professor Pardo’s publications are invaluable academic sources.

East Asia will continue to be on the headlines of international politics in the years to come. Minister Park’s visit to King’s was an opportunity for students to learn about this region, and to gain exclusive insight into the future of Korea-UK relations.

To read more about special events and visits to King’s, click here.

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