The Foreign Policy Systems of North and South Korea

By Byung Chul Koh | Go to book overview

1
INTRODUCTION

Since the end of World War II, two bloody and prolonged conflicts of international dimensions have been waged in the peninsulas of Korea and Indochina. A striking lesson of these traumatic events is that relashy; tively small nations can have profound and lasting impact on their larger neighbors. Another important lesson is that in a world marked by a clash of ideologies and perceived self-interests, there are serious limits to the ability of major powers to influence, let alone dictate, events in smaller nations. The Korean case is particularly instructive, for after nearly three decades of intermittent turmoil since the armishy; stice, the peninsula still remains a potential tinderbox, from which major powers have yet to extricate themselves.

The key to the seeming anomaly--of tiny North and South Korea demanding an inordinate amount of attention and resources from their formidable neighbors--may be found in the strategic geopolitical location of the Korean peninsula. It is surrounded and dwarfed by three of the world's great powers--China, Russia, and Japan. In terms of size, China is 44 times larger than Korea, Russia 102 times, and Japan 1.7 times. Not only did Korea serve as the invashy; sion route between China and Japan in the late thirteenth and sixshy; teenth centuries, but it became the object, cause, or arena of internashy; tional conflict several times thereafter. The Sino-Japanese War of 1894-1895 was precipitated by the Tonghak Rebellion in Korea and by the rivalry of the two powers to gain hegemony in the peninsula. Similarly, the Russo-Japanese War of 1904-1905 was sparked by the adversaries' competition over Korea and ravaged the already weakshy;

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