[156th Edition] October 01, 2013

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President Park’s Trustpolitik:
A New Framework for South Korea’s Foreign Policy


Foreign Minister Yun Byung-se contributed the article titled “President Park’s Trustpolitik: A New Framework for South Korea’s Foreign Policy” to the fall issue of the English-language Global Asia published on September 27.

In his contribution, Minister Yun explains that trustpolitik is the foreign policy as a natural extension of President Park’s politics, which places trust at its core, as well as a concept that overarches the relevant vision and methodology. In terms of the reason for its broad support from home and abroad, the Minister writes that “trustpolitik is a realistic and balanced policy that has significant potential to effectively overcome the current difficulties facing South Korea while also laying the foundation for a new Korean Peninsula, a new Asia, and eventually a new future.” He explains how trust, a concept central to President Park’s political philosophy, is reflected in the making and implementation of her foreign policy.

● Trustpolitik as a Vision and a Philosophy

Trust is an asset and public infrastructure for international cooperation and an indispensable prerequisite for sustainable and genuine peace. Trustpolitik is an effort to forge a higher level of cooperation among nations built on trust. It is neither a utopian idealism that shies away from realpolitik nor a naïve political romanticism. Rather, it takes into account Korea’s unique historical experiences as well as a hard assessment of the political realities on the Korean Peninsula, in Northeast Asia and in the international community.

● Trustpolitik as a Methodology

The methodology of implementing trustpolitik is actually embedded in its core concept of trust itself. As trust cannot be built with only one side making the effort, trustpolitik is neither an appeasement nor a coercive policy. Since the spontaneous shaping of trust is virtually impossible, there is no room for political convenience or fast-track results in trustpolitik. As the underlining assumption of the concept of trustpolitik is the building of trust, which takes time and effort, President Park’s strong commitment is already embedded in her choosing trustpolitik as the principal guideline of the Republic of Korea’s foreign policy.

● Korean Peninsula Trust Building Process and the Northeast Asia Peace and Cooperation Initiative

The trust-building process on the Korean Peninsula is aimed to safeguard peace on the basis of a firm and resolute security posture and achieve peace through the stable development of inter-Korean relations based on trust. Its ultimate goal is to usher in a new Korean Peninsula where the happiness of all its inhabitants in the South and North is assured. The current administration’s policy toward the North is the policy of alignment which is an effective and balanced combination of contending or competing policy options, such as inter-Korean and foreign relations, pressure and dialogue, and deterrence and cooperation. It is a policy that is strong when there is a need to be more firm, and flexible when there is a need to be more receptive.

The Northeast Asia Peace and Cooperation Initiative is a potential roadmap for implementing trustpolitik at the regional level and transforming the existing structure of mistrust and confrontation caused by the so-called “Asian Paradox” into one of trust and cooperation. Starting from building a consensus on softer, yet equally critical issues such as climate change, environment, disaster relief and nuclear safety, the Northeast Asia Peace and Cooperation Initiative seeks to gradually develop a habit of cooperation among regional players so that it may eventually contribute to addressing the region’s thornier issues and ushering in a new, prosperous Northeast Asia.

● Responsible Middle Power Diplomacy

Another important goal of trustpolitik is to contribute to the peace and development of the world beyond just the Korean Peninsula and Northeast Asia. As such, the ROK seeks to play an even greater role in responding to various global challenges and to contribute in responsible and constructive ways to the process of forming global rules and norms. The ROK will also provide a tailored development cooperation program for the recipient while strengthening the cooperation mechanism with other middle powers for the materialization of global values. Trustpolitik reflects the belief that the peace and prosperity of Korea and the world are indivisible as well as the global paradigm shift that places greater emphasis on the importance of human security.

In 2011, ROK President Park Geun-hye, then the frontrunner among candidates seeking the nomination of her party for presidency, introduced the basic concepts underlying trustpolitik in her contribution to Foreign Affairs, one of the US leading magazines on foreign affairs. Minister Yun’s contribution carries significance in that it provides domestic and international assessments by the US, China, Russia, and ASEAN member states on the achievements of the ROK government’s trustpolitik; a more detailed description of the concept; and its policy implications. As such, it is expected to help local and foreign opinion leaders better understand the philosophy and the vision of trustpolitik.

☞ Full Text of Foreign Minister's Article

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