Dialogue with Park Jin
Korea’s Trilateral Partnership with the United States and Japan: Lessons of the Park Chung-hee Era
Presented by PARK Jin, Asia Future Institute
The Seoul Forum for International Affairs hosted a members’ dialogue with Park Jin, former Chairman of the Foreign Affairs and Unification Committee of the National Assembly and former Secretary to the President for Political Affairs. Currently president of the Asia Future Institute, Dr. Park provided a practitioner’s as well as an academic’s perspectives on the crucial importance of sustaining trilateral security cooperation among the United States, South Korea, and Japan.
Park began the seminar by exploring the two major foundations of South Korea’s foreign relations: (1) the bilateral security alliance with the U.S. to deter North Korea; and (2) a strong economic partnership with Japan since diplomatic normalization in 1965. He added that these two guideposts resulted in a framework for a robust trilateral partnership that was created during the Park Chung-hee period, during which the government sought national security, economic growth, and self-reliance through managing its complex relationships with the United States and Japan.
He noted that South Korea’s foreign policy has shifted considerably since the end of the Cold War including an increasingly important relationship with China, particularly in terms of bilateral trade and attempting to contain the North Korean nuclear threat. Park argued, however, that the ROK’s defense treaty with the United States remained indispensable and further, that the ROK-U.S. alliance had evolved into a critical political, economic, and security alliance over the past sixty years. Notwithstanding the importance of engaging North Korea in order to resolve the North Korean nuclear problem and putting into place key confidence building measures, Park emphasized the importance of maintaining the trilateral security cooperation under the Park Geun-hye Administration. Despite outstanding historical disputes between Korea and Japan and even as Seoul maintains a moral high ground, he stressed the importance of improving ties with Japan in both the bilateral and trilateral contexts.