The growing U.S.-China rivalry has placed the countries of Southeast Asia in exceedingly precarious positions. The Republic of Korea (ROK) likewise has been tasked with the challenge of “navigating the waters” between deepening geopolitical divides. It is in this context that the “New Southern Policy” (hereafter NSP) has become a key word in Korea’s foreign policy circles. Through NSP, ROK aims to diversify its economic and security interests by strengthening ties with its southern partners, focusing on three key areas (termed as the “3 Ps”): People, Prosperity, and Peace. At the same time, the NSP seeks cooperation with other key diplomatic agendas such as the U.S.‘s “Free and Open Indo-Pacific,” rendering it crucial for the overall stability of the region. Considering such strategic significance, deeper analysis of the policy is more timely than ever.
A brief assessment of the policy’s outcome so far, however, reveals that relatively, the “Peace” pillar has been insufficient in achieving satisfactory outcomes. Here, this paper asks the question of:
1) How can the “Peace” pillar of South Korea’s New Southern Policy be strengthened?
Based on an analysis on the causes of the “Peace” pillar’s weakness, this paper identifies counter-piracy cooperation as a solution. This paper then proceeds to answer the next question of:
2) How can ROK and ASEAN cooperate on counter-piracy, and how can these efforts be integrated into ROK’s NSP?
To answer the above question, this paper conducts in-depth case studies on ASEAN’s and ROK’s approaches to counter-piracy and identifies specific mechanisms of cooperation.
In Chapter I, the paper begins with an overview of the NSP’s strategic significance and an evaluation of its “Peace” pillar. Chapter II conducts a literature review on the causes of, and prescriptions for, the weakness of the “Peace” pillar. The paper then justifies why counter-piracy may be a solution. Chapter III examines ASEAN’s and ROK’s approaches to counter-piracy. By analyzing the general framework and each region’s cases, the paper displays the strengths and weaknesses of each region’s piracy responses. Based on this analysis, Chapter IV suggests ways to incorporate counter-piracy cooperation into the “Peace” pillar of the NSP.
This research bears significance in that it identifies a specific area of cooperation (counter-piracy) to strengthen the “Peace” pillar of ROK’s NSP. Such identification is based on a comprehensive study into the two parties’ past and current experience in counter-piracy, making it contextual in nature. Furthermore, the study suggests practical mechanisms of cooperation, and considers ways of incorporation into the existing framework of NSP. This approach differs from existing literature that failed to generate case-specific, policy-oriented solutions.
The COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated piracy issues and deepened geopolitical divides. Turbulent seas such as these call for careful navigation. When it comes to promoting “peace,” the key lies in combating the pirates that sail those very waters.