Korean Reunification: A South Korean Perspective


Thursday, September 23, 2021, 4:30pm to 6:00pm


Online (Zoom)

Kim Koo Forum

event poster

Young-kwan Yoon
Visiting Scholar, Kim Koo Visiting Professor of Harvard University; Professor Emeritus of Political Science and International Relations, Seoul National University; Former Minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade, Republic of Korea

Young-kwan Yoon is Kim Koo Visiting Professor at Department of Government, Harvard University. He was also a Senior Visiting Scholar with the Korea Project at the Belfer Center for Science & International Affairs (Dec 2020 - Jun 2021). He is Professor Emeritus in the Department of Political Science and International Relations, Seoul National University. He served as Minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade of the Republic of Korea (South Korea) from 2003 to 2004. Before he joined the faculty of Seoul National University in 1990, he taught at the University of California at Davis.

Chaired by Carter Eckert, Yoon Se Young Professor of Korean History, Harvard University

Like German reunification in 1990, a peaceful reunification of Korea is assumed to occur when international forces against reunification (centrifugal forces) can be minimized while internal (inter-Korean) forces for reunification (centripetal forces) maximized. The geo-strategic concerns of Korea’s four neighboring states (the United States, China, Japan, Russia) about uncertain future of reunified Korea were the important source of strong centrifugal forces. Four states view the issue of Korean reunification from the perspective of their strategic games with others. The lack of multilateral security cooperation mechanism in Northeast Asia, hostile U.S.-North Korea relations, China’s concern on losing strategic buffer zone have all strengthened centrifugal forces. On the other hand, the lack of bipartisan consensus on North Korea policy between the liberal and conservative political camps in South Korea and North Korean leaders’ fear of regime instability and nuclear development weakened centripetal forces. Whether and how the Koreans will be able to overcome those challenges will probably decide the likelihood of peaceful reunification in the future.

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The Korea Institute acknowledges the generous support of the Kim Koo Foundation.