The Multilateralist

South Korea’s multilateral moment

One of the more notable trends in South Korea’s recent foreign policy has been an embrace of multilateral institutions, both at the regional and global level. When Seoul hosted the G20 summit in 2010, the government spared no effort to highlight South Korea’s global role, and particularly its potential to serve as a bridge between ...

One of the more notable trends in South Korea’s recent foreign policy has been an embrace of multilateral institutions, both at the regional and global level. When Seoul hosted the G20 summit in 2010, the government spared no effort to highlight South Korea’s global role, and particularly its potential to serve as a bridge between the developing and developed worlds. There were even reports that the Korean government was keen to host a permanent G20 secretariat. Seoul’s embrace of international summitry has continued.  In March, the country hosted the Nuclear Security Summit, which brought together more than fifty countries.

Seoul’s enthusiasm for multilateral diplomacy is being reciprocated. Quietly, South Korean nationals are collecting an impressive set of multilateral posts. Most notable of course is Ban Ki-moon, former Korean foreign minister, who was elected to his second term as UN Secretary-General last year. But Korea also boasts the president of the International Criminal Court, Sang-Hyun Song. The next World Bank president, Jim Kim, is American of course, but he was born in South Korea and lived there as a child. Kim was not shy about highlighting that fact as he sought global support for his candidacy.

The South Korean winning streak continues. Just a few days ago, the World Trade Organization named a new member of its powerful Appellate Body, which has final say on trade disputes. He is Chang Seung-wha, a trade expert from Seoul National University.  

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