Country Report: South Korea (August 2023)


Throughout July, President Yoon Suk-yeol was extensively engaged in diplomatic activities, including participation in a NATO conference in Vilnius, Lithuania, as well as undertaking a visit to Ukraine. In August, South Korea entered a new phase of diplomacy in the wake of three leaders gathering at Camp David. Following the trilateral summit meeting, the three leaders; President Yoon Suk-yeol of South Korea, President Joe Biden of the United States, and Prime Minister Kishida Fumio of Japan, adopted “the "Commitment to Consult," "Spirit of Camp David," and "Camp David Principles," outlining their cooperative vision and action plans, particularly emphasizing security cooperation. The three leaders did not directly address “China” or “Russia,” but they conveyed a political statement to both nations by making references to North Korea’s nuclear threats, emphasizing economic security cooperation, and acknowledging the ongoing Ukraine war. The trilateral summit meeting at Camp David held great significance for South Korea, but the nation still contends with challenges including the hostile responses of China, Japan’s intention to discharge Fukushima wastewater, persistent North Korean threats, and the dynamics of China-Russia relations.

ROK-US Relations

The first meeting of the NCG between South Korea and the US

On July 18, the first meeting of the NCG (Nuclear Consultative Group), led by Kurt Campbell, coordinator for the Indo-Pacific for the US National Security Council (NSC) and Cara Abercrombie, NSC coordinator for defense policy and arms control, was held at the Yongsan Presidential Office in Seoul to discuss information sharing, joint planning, and execution plans to strengthen extended deterrence against North Korea’s threat.1 Following the meeting, Kim Tae-hyo, first deputy director of the National Security Office, during a joint news conference, said “Any nuclear attack by North Korea against South Korea will be met with a swift, overwhelming, and decisive response.”2 Kim highlighted that both sides will follow an integrated extended deterrence system through the NCG.3 Campbell made a surprising announcement of the first US nuclear submarine in decades entering South Korea by saying that “As we speak an American nuclear submarine is making port in Busan today,”4 adding that this deployment does not only contribute to peace and stability on the Korean Peninsula it also demonstrates US determination to make its allies or partners trust nuclear-deterrence, citing the Ohio-class ballistic-missile submarine USS Kentucky (SSBN 737)’s arrival in Busan.5

Ironically, North Korea fired two Short-Range Ballistic Missiles (SRBM) into the sea hours after South Korea and the US launched the NCG and the submarine entered South Korea.6

The conservative Segye Ilbo editorialized that inauguration of the NCG, which can be compared to NATO, carries meaning under the threat of North Korea, while underscoring that the NCG’s practical measures have to break North Korea’s ambition.7 The conservative JoongAng Ilbo pointed out that preparations for North Korea’s threat need to be supplemented even if both countries held the NCG meeting.8 The conservative JoongAng Ilbo editorialized that approval for South Korea’s own nuclear program rose to 70 percent early this year, which means there is not enough faith in the US nuclear umbrella.9 The conservative JoongAng Ilbo therefore suggested that both countries should make South Korean people feel safe by offering practical measures from multiple angles.10

In contrast, the progressive Kyunghyang Shinmun raised questions about how long Yoon would only claim “Peace through Strength.”11 It pointed out that emphasizing strong security is the basis of national leadership; however, only gambling on conflict should be avoided.12

North Korea

North Korea’s refusal to allow for the Hyundai Group chief’s visit to NK

On July 1, Kim Song-il, director general of North Korea’s foreign ministry, expressed his intention through the Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) to refuse the Hyundai Group chief’s request to visit Mt. Geumgang.13 The found of Hyundai Group, Chung Ju-young, historically strived to help improve inter-Korean relations by strengthening economic cooperation.14 In accordance with the founder’s will, Hyundai Group had run sightseeing programs at Mt. Geumgang in North Korea, but all programs were suspended in July 2008 after a tourist from Seoul was shot to death there.15 Although inter-Korean relations remain deadlocked, the Hyundai Group chief Hyun Jeong-eun submitted a document to visit North Korea to the Ministry of Unification in order to hold a memorial service for her late husband and former chief Chung Mong-hun.16

North Korea’s foreign ministry turned down her request, adding that “It is the policy of the North Korean government that entry by any South Korean people into North Korea’s territory can’t be allowed.”17 Due to the special nature of inter-Korean relations, North Korea has usually released such statements through related authorities such as the committee for the Peaceful Reunification of the Fatherland. This time, the foreign ministry indicated North Korea’s stance, which implies that North Korea regards South Korea as a separate foreign country and enemy country at the same time.18 When it comes to North Korea’s refusal to allow for the visit, South Korea’s media outlets were unanimous in expressing concern.

The conservative Dong-A Ilbo criticized North Korea for turning down Hyun’s request, questioning why it has working level contacts with Japan in a third countries such as China and Singapore, but not South Korea.19 It urged South Korea to keep an eye on Japan-North Korea relations, underscoring South Korea’s effort to resolve the North Korea issue.20 Progressive Kyunghyang Shinmun pointed out that North Korea’s refusal shows the current state of inter-Korean relations,21 adding that North Korea’s intent appears clear: to re-establish inter-Korean relations through the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, not through the committee for the Peaceful Reunification of the Fatherland. The progressive Kyunghyang Shinmun strongly urged South Korea to improve inter-Korean relations by opening the door to dialogue with North Korea.22

The use of the term “Republic of Korea” by Kim Yo-jong 

On July 10-11 for two consecutive days, Kim Yo-jong issued a statement condemning US Forces Korea (USKF)’s deployment of surveillance flights into North Korea’s airspace.23 Kim Yo-jong referred to South Korea as “Republic of Korea,” which is South Korea’s official name.24 Previously, North Korea usually referred to South Korea as “South Joseon” or “The South Korean puppet,” however, this reference to “Republic of Korea” signifies a change in inter-Korean relations. Furthermore, it means that North Korea could intend to categorize South Korea as a “foreign enemy country” rather than “the subject of unification.”

Domestic media outlets expressed strong concern. Conservative Chosun Ilbo said Kim Yo-jong’s reference should not be overlooked,25 adding that North Korea may regard South Korea as an ‘enemy country’ in line with the recent refusal through the foreign ministry to allow the Hyundai Group chief’s visit to North Korea. Conservative Hankook Ilbo questioned Kim’s motive for saying “Republic of Korea,” questioning the ramifications of turning ties into an inter-state relationship.26 Progressive Hankyoreh criticized North Korea for raising irrational tension, calling on South Korea to read North Korea’s new message objectively.27 It added that the South Korean government needs to prepare some kind of countermeasure.28

North Korea’s ICBM launch on July 12

On July 12, North Korea launched a suspected Intercontinental Ballistic Missile (ICBM) toward its eastern waters.29 The launch came after it released a series of statements condemning US surveillance flights for drawing close to North Korea’s airspace. Japan said that North Korea fired a solid-fueled ICBM, Hwasong-18, which flew for 74 minutes to an altitude of 6,000 km and a range of 1,000 km.30 Military analysts said that this Hwasong-18 could reach the continental U.S. at an altitude of over 6,000 km.31 In response, Yoon presided over an emergency NSC meeting during his visit to Lithuania, where he attended the NATO summit.32 Insisting that the illicit act by North Korea would come with a price, he called for strengthening US “extended deterrence” through the NCG, scheduled for July 18 in Seoul.33

The conservative Maeil Kyungjae noted that North Korean provocations have recently been more dangerous in light of the current situation,34 noting that the launch came just two days after Kim Yo-jong accused the US of flying closer to North Korea’s airspace and referring to South Korea as the “Republic of Korea.”35North Korea’s threats should not be overlooked, and South Korea’s military should be poised to handle North Korea’s attack, it asserted. The center-right Seoul Shinmun also found significance in the ICBM launch coming just after Kim Yo-jong’s remarks on the US and South Korea, saying that it is necessary for South Korea to review institutional and legal systems in case North Korea tries to change the relationship with South Korea from special inter-Korean relations to state-to-state relations.36

The progressive Kyunghyang Shinmun also expressed concern over North Korean provocations, arguing that North Korea’s recent threat is not helpful to its interest, while underscoring that South Korea should avoid an accidental incident with North Korea on the Korean Peninsula, which runs the risk of breaking out nuclear war.37 Not only noting Kim Yo-jong’s shift, it said South Korea also is reframing inter-Korean relations by changing the role of the Ministry of Unification.38 The paper argued that what we need is to reduce the likelihood of North Korea raising regional tensions by exhibiting South Korea’s wisdom in not letting that happen.

ROK-Japan Relations

IAEA’s approval of Japan’s plan to release Fukushima wastewater

On July 4, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) found that Japan’s plan to discharge Fukushima wastewater into the sea is consistent with the IAEA Safety Standard.39 Director General Rafael Mariano Grossi visited Japan, handing a written comprehensive report on the water release to Kishida.40 He added that the IAEA has conducted an examination over two years and suitability is certain from a technological perspective.41 A final report followed Grossi’s visit to Japan.42 With approval of the IAEA, Japan is able to carry out the plan anytime Kishida decides.43 Nevertheless, resistance is expected as Japanese local fisheries and South Korea, China, and some Pacific Island nations strongly oppose Japan’s plan due to safety concerns. The South Korean government responded that it respects the IAEA report on the water release. On July 5, Pak Ku-yeon, the first deputy chief of the office for Government Policy Coordination, said that, however, mentioning that the government withholds judgement on the content of the report because in-depth analysis is currently under the way44 and will constantly monitor action plans, carried out by Japan and the IAEA, through close cooperation prioritizing people’s health and safety.45

The IAEA report on the water release is stirring up conflict within South Korean. Opposition leaders in the Democratic Party and Justice Party strongly oppose the IAEA report. Lee Jae-myung, the leader of the Democratic Party, said that Japan will use the report as an excuse to discharge the wastewater, and the Democratic Party will be working on all fronts to get this resolved.46 The People Power Party, the ruling party, responded that it should humbly admit the report, criticizing the Democratic Party for distrusting an international organization.47 After announcing the report, IAEA director arrived in Seoul for a three-day visit aimed at explaining the content of the report and getting support from the South Korean public, but he faced strong criticism from the Democratic Party and street protesters.48 Domestic media outlets generally expressed concern over the IAEA decision.

The conservative JoongAng Ilbo strongly emphasized that the government has to explain it correctly and seek the understanding of the people.49 In addition, it is necessary for to establish a hot-line with Japan.50 According to the conservative Hankook Ilbo, it is to be expected, and Japan’s plan to discharge Fukushima wastewater is becoming more visible now.51 Given these circumstances, the South Korean government’s role becomes very important for addressing this issue, and the government should do its best to remove people’s fear of wastewater.52 The conservative Kookmin Ilbo strongly required South Korean government to set conditions whereby the Korean people would be able to consume marine products safely.53

The progressive Kyunghyang Shinmun pointed out that there is still no way of knowing whether Japan’s neighboring countries will stop fearing wastewater despite the IAEA’s decision.54 The progressive Hankyoreh had a negative attitude toward the IAEA’s decision, Highlighting that Japan can never justify the release of Fukushima wastewater.55 It called on the South Korean government to make thorough preparations against Japan’s plan.56 Conservative Segye Ilbo said that the Democratic Party had pounced on the IAEA director, who tried to explain the content of report at the headquarters of the Democratic Party.57 Segye Ilbo alsopointed out that protesters’ attempts to block the director’s visit to South Korea was an overreaction.58

Yoon- Kishida Talks

On July 12, Yoon and Japanese Kishida held a bilateral meeting on the sidelines of the NATO summit in Vilnius, Lithuania.59Although both leaders in public stressed the importance of joint responses to North Korea’s threat, they discussed pending issues between South Korea and Japan in private talk. While saying that South Korea respects a final report published by IAEA, Yoon asked Japan to notify South Korea if the concentration of radionuclides exceeds the limits.60 He also asked Japan to allow Korean experts to monitor the discharge of wastewater from the Fukushima nuclear plant.61 In a kind of response, Kishida said that Japan will strive to ensure the safety of the Fukushima water discharge so as to not harm the health of Japanese and Korean citizens.62 “The whole discharge process will be reviewed by the IAEA, and Japan will reveal information with high transparency,” Kishida added. With respect to Yoon’s request, Kishida promised to halt the release of water if the concentration of radionuclides exceeds the limits. 63

Conservative JoongAng Ilbo said that this issue is not over and there is still negative publicity about the release of Fukushima wastewater.64 Mentioning that South Korea’s opposition parties treat this issue as a political football, it urged both countries to respond immediately to handle unexpected variables through close communication.65 The conservative JoongAng Ilbo mentioned how both governments have responded so far carefully considering the sensitivity of this issue.66 After praising the joint response to North Korea’s threats, JoongAng Ilbo claimed that they should carefully handle this issue.67 Conservative Segye Ilbo argued that both countries should set up a two-way communication channels and strive to ease South Korean people’s fear by sharing information on the wastewater.68 Conservative Segye Ilbo alsopointed out the fact that Kishida has not made his position clear on Yoon’s request to allow South Korean experts to monitor the discharge of wastewater from the nuclear plant,69 editorializing that it is necessary to allow them to monitor to earn trust from South Korea.70

Progressive Hankyoreh editorialized that despite the summit with Kishida, a visible result regarding the release of Fukushima wastewater is nonexistent.71 It blamed Yoon for not presenting South Korean opposition parties’ demand to suspend the release of Fukushima wastewater.72 Progressive Kyunghyang Shinmun echoed this view, saying that Kishida did not answer the request of Yoon on monitoring,73 stressing that Yoon had just performed the role of spokesman for Japan, not his concerned citizens.74

ROK-NATO Relations

South Korea’s vow to strengthen relations with NATO

On July 10-12, Yoon Suk-yeol attended, as an observer for the second time, the annual NATO summit, hosted in Vilnius, Lithuania, to discuss the reconstruction of Ukraine, new security threats, and US-Japan-South Korea trilateral security cooperation. On July 11, Yoon and NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg shared opinions on the war in Ukraine and North Korea’s nuclear and missile programs.75 The two sides also established an Individually Tailored Partnership Program (ITPP) that includes cooperation in 11 areas such as cyber security, scientific technology, anti-terrorism, and non-proliferation,76 upgrading to comprehensive cooperation in economic and security areas in contrast with the existing Individual Partnership and Cooperation Program (IPCP) limited to cooperation in security.77

At the summit involving member states and partner nations of NATO, Yoon emphasized that South Korea would expand military information sharing with NATO, saying that South Korea would participate in BICES (Battlefield Information Collection and Exploitation System),78 a network that enables NATO members and some of partner nations to share military information, including on nuclear forces.79 Stoltenberg first proposed participation in BICES when he visited South Korea in January, and South Korea decided to accept his offer after the review.80 After submitting an application to the BICES board, South Korea can join. In a press briefing, an official said that even if South Korea participates in BICES, it would not be able to share information on NATO nuclear forces with member states right away, but South Korea is expected to use BICES to share information on illegal activities such as hacking and crimes in the cyber sphere.81

The conservative Maeil Kyungjae editorialized that expansion of cooperation between South Korea and NATO is an unavoidable choice for the sake of security and the economy after Russia invaded Ukraine.82The conservativeSegye Ilbo agreed, saying it is opportune to expand cooperation with NATO in the current situation where North Korea is threatening South Korea with nuclear weapons, adding that “Peace through strength” is the only answer.83

ROK-Ukraine Relations

Ukraine Peace and Solidarity Initiative

On July 15, Yoon made a surprise visit to Ukraine after visiting Poland,84 demonstrating solidarity against Russia’s invasion and pledging security assistance and humanitarian aid as well as postwar reconstruction assistance to Ukraine. He visited Bucha where Russian troops committed atrocities and the bombing sites of private houses in Irpin.85 He also paid silent tribute at the graves of war victims.86 And then Yoon held a summit with President Volodymyr Zelenskyy to discuss aid to Ukraine,87 conveying strong solidarity and agreeing to provide Ukraine with a comprehensive package of security, humanitarian and reconstruction aid under the name “Ukraine Peace and Solidarity Initiative.”88 He made sure that South Korea would provide larger-scale non-lethal military assistance to Ukraine.89 He also pledged to increase humanitarian aid by up to $150 million this year from $100 million last year.90

In addition, South Korea pledged to provide therapeutic support services to Ukrainian children who suffer from the war.91 When it comes to reconstruction assistance, Yoon mentioned that South Korea would support private companies’ participation in Ukraine’s reconstruction process.92 He added that South Korea would offer support to Ukraine under the Economic Development Cooperation Fund (EDCF) and scholarships to Ukrainian students who are studying in South Korea.92 Zelenskyy expressed his gratitude and highlighted that relations will become more important.

Mentioning that Yoon made a visit to a country at war where South Korea did not dispatch troops, the conservative Kookmin Ilbo highlighted the launch of the “Ukraine Peace and Solidarity Initiative” to help to rebuild the country.94 It editorialized that this diplomatic move carries special meaning for security and the economy. Likewise, the conservative Chosun Ilbo urged South Korea to help in keeping Ukraine free and peaceful, saying that a president had visited a country at war where South Korea did not dispatch troops for the first time.95

In contrast, the progressive Kyunghyang Shinmun expressed concern over his surprising to Ukraine, considering relations with Russia and China. It expected a strong backlash from Russia and questioned this decision to visit Ukraine.96The progressive Hankyoreh echoed this view, saying that Yoon takes a clear stance against Russia by visiting Ukraine, adding that it is essential to ask for Russia’s cooperation in order to resolve North Korea’s threat. And it expressed concern that Yoon’s western-biased diplomacy is leading to closer relations among North Korea, Russia, and China under a new cold war era.97

The Trilateral Summit at Camp David

On the 18th (local time), Yoon, Biden, and Kishida held a trilateral summit meeting at Camp David, a presidential retreat near Washington, D.C.98 The three leaders issued three documents outlining pledges to strengthen security and economic collaboration, while also promising annual leadership meetings. The "Commitment to Consult," "Spirit of Camp David," and "Camp David Principles," presented their collaborative vision and action plan and a framework for trilateral cooperation, intricately weaving cooperation across multiple domains, plans to enhance comprehensive collaboration beyond the diplomatic and defense sectors, including establishing annual trilateral meetings and real-time sharing of North Korean missile threat information, as well as bolstering cooperation in finance, industry, cybersecurity, and regional policies.99

The "Commitment to Consult" establishes that the three nations have agreed to engage in prompt trilateral consultations to align their responses to regional challenges, provocations, and threats that impact their shared interests and security. In their joint statement on the "Spirit of Camp David," the three leaders acknowledged the initiation of "a new era of trilateral partnership" focused on enhancing the security and prosperity of their respective populations, the region, and the global community. In the document "Camp David Principles," the three nations reaffirmed their commitment to a "collective vision for their partnership, as well as for the Indo-Pacific and other regions," founded on a foundation of respect for international law, shared norms, and mutual values. This encompassed collaboration with ASEAN and Pacific Island countries.100

The conservative Chosun Ilbo‘s editorial recognized the three nations for inaugurating a "new era of trilateral partnership," a quasi-alliance system, marked by consistent discussions spanning diplomacy, security, economy, and technology, all contributing to the development of a unified and cooperative framework. In its editorial, the progressive Kyunghyang Shinmun underscored that the summit’s outcome has solidified collaborative ties among South Korea, the United States, and Japan in the security and economic domains, intensifying the United States’ Indo-Pacific strategy, especially in countering China and Russia’s influence. However, Kyunghyang Shinmun also pointed out that criticism is bound to arise over the agreement that presents US and South Korean interests as if they are interchangeable, even though the unique national interest structures of South Korea, the United States, and Japan are different.101

Both domestic and international media are taking note of the potential backlash that could arise from the enhanced trilateral cooperation. A deepening rivalry between the South Korea-US-Japan alliance and the North Korea-China-Russia alignment is expected, with strain on relations with China. South Korea’s potential leading role in the United States’ containment strategy towards China might amplify security risks, ultimately heightening insecurity.102

Yoon’s strong proclivity towards the US and its risks

By establishing a cooperative framework in security and economy, South Korea, the United States, and Japan have aimed to extend their influence into the Indo-Pacific region, leading to a positive assessment of having "ushered in a new era" by the trilateral leaders. However, there are also observations that South Korean diplomacy has entered uncharted territory, which is referred to as a potentially risky path, especially with China.

The central reason for South Korea’s diplomatic trajectory being seen as precarious is the alteration in its approach towards China, where it has adopted a pro-US policy aimed at containing and restricting China, argue progressives, which criticize the Yoon Suk-yeol administration for bypassing the process of public discourse and persisting with one-sided diplomacy that contradicts the desires of the citizens. The progressive Kyunghyang Shinmun editorialized that South Korea’s alignment with the implicit strategy of containment against China, and its formalization through joint cooperation, signifies a rapid transformation in the path of diplomacy between South Korea and China over the past three decades since the establishment of diplomatic relations in 1992.103 In another editorial, Kyunghyang Shinmun pointed out that criticism has been raised about Yoon’s unilateral approach in shaping South Korea-Japan relations. The establishment of a "quasi-military alliance" during the summit is a substantial issue that could profoundly reshape regional security dynamics, yet there was a lack of expert assessment and political consultation with the opposition party.104 The Hankyoreh editorialized that the results of the summit not only establish a quasi-alliance but also represent a significant initial stride toward a collective security system among the three nations, causing a profound transformation in the Asian security order since World War II. Hankyoreh also warned that the administration is swiftly involving South Korea deeply in the US strategy without adequately explaining how it intends to manage its relationship with China or defining the scope of the South Korea-US-Japan alliance. In the public arena, the national interests of the US and Japan do not perfectly align with those of South Korea. Hankyoreh points out that it remains unclear what benefits South Korea will gain and what costs it might incur from the recent trilateral cooperation among South Korea, the United States, and Japan.105

The conservative Chosun Ilbo suggested that a viable solution is needed that maximizes the common interests of the three nations while also finding ways to ease the resistance from China. If the leaders show genuine intent, a stance of cooperation for mutual interests with China should be upheld. Chosun Ilbo editorialized that it is crucial not to neglect the creation of a new response strategy to address these dynamics effectively.106

Apprehension regarding reactions in China

Concerns have been voiced over South Korea’s unquestioning alignment with the United States’ strategy to counter China, a move that might entail substantial drawbacks, as well as the considerable unease stemming from forging a virtual military partnership with Japan without substantial public support. Progressive media such as Hankyoreh pointed out that the advantages to be gained and the potential burdens remain ambiguous.107

China reacted strongly to the trilateral summit meeting, referring to it as an attempt to create an "Asian version of NATO." China closely monitored how the "Principles" that the three leaders announce might include content related to Taiwan. Wang Wenbin, the spokesperson for the Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs, emphasized during a regular briefing on the 18th that in the face of a complex international security situation involving war and turmoil, countries should uphold the principles of a security community and true multilateralism, collaborating to address various security challenges. He further asserted, "No country should sacrifice the security interests of other countries and seek its own security at the expense of regional peace and stability."108

Chinese state-owned media and experts have responded with more provocative language and pushed back against the summit. They emphasized the differences between the United States and Japan on one side and South Korea on the other, adopting a strategy of differentiation in their response.109 Lu Chao, dean of the Institute of American and East Asian Studies at Liaoning University in northeastern China, criticized the summit in an interview with Huanqiu Shibao (Global Times), stating, "The United States seeks to tightly bind Japan and South Korea to the US tank and manipulate the terminology of the US Indo-Pacific strategy. One of the main objectives of this Camp David meeting is targeting China."110

Huanqiu Shibao continued, "If Korea aligns itself with the United States’ attempt to build an ‘Asian version of NATO,’ it will not only infringe on China’s interests but also bring significant risks to Korea itself." The column emphasized the potential consequences of Korea’s alignment with such a strategy and the need to carefully weigh the implications of its decisions regarding its relationship with China.111

Also, in an interview with the New York Times, Song Zhongping, a commentator in Beijing and a former military officer, emphasized that China will closely monitor any signs of the alliance’s expansion, particularly its involvement with countries like the Philippines. He characterized this as a "worst-case scenario" for China, as it could potentially result in the formation of an "Indo-Pacific NATO."112

In its editorial, the conservative Chosun Ilbo underscored that the economic and security influence of China holds undeniable significance. Notably, China previously represented a quarter of South Korea’s exports, a pattern unlikely to alter significantly in the foreseeable future. The conservative Maeil Kyungjae also pointed out that China remains a country where Korean companies and residents are most heavily engaged. Borrowing a phrase from China’s perspective, it’s like having a "neighbor you can’t move away from." Maeil Kyungjae underscores the necessity of concurrently managing South Korea’s relationship with China in a stable manner alongside the cooperation among South Korea, the United States, and Japan.113

Furthermore, China, not to mention Russia, wield diverse strategies to cause disruptions, leveraging North Korea. Their actions could escalate beyond mere backing of the Kim Jong-un regime, potentially extending to furnishing advanced weaponry to North Korea, thereby directly imperiling the security of the nation. Chosun Ilbo stressed that the explicit collaboration of South Korea, the United States, and Japan aimed at containing China, and also Russia and North Korea, presents a substantial diplomatic opening as well as a challenge for South Korea.114

Media sources are also expressing concern over the one-sided nature of Yoon’s communication strategy. The progressive Hankook Ilbo expressed criticism of Yoon, noting his adoption of a unilateral communication method through live broadcasting cabinet meetings without providing adequate explanations. This is especially concerning considering the uncertainties surrounding the benefits and costs of the "South Korea-US-Japan quasi-alliance." The newspaper further highlighted that Yoon has been consistently avoiding questions about public concerns and instead repeatedly conveying his own viewpoints without addressing the inquiries of the citizens.115

Debates over ROK-Japanese relations

While Japan has not provided a "sincere response" to historical issues, South Korea has potentially allowed for Japan’s military involvement and expressed concerns about the possibility of military constraints on the Korean Peninsula. Yoon has not addressed the public’s concerns about the ocean release of wastewater (also referred to as "treated water" in Japan) from the Fukushima nuclear plant as well.116 Yoon expressed confidence in the credibility of the inspection results conducted by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) regarding the release of wastewater during a press conference following the summit at Camp David. This comes despite the significant public opposition in South Korea against the discharge of the wastewater.117

Meanwhile, Kishida visited Fukushima Daiichi Unit 1 reactor, where preparations are being made for the ocean release of wastewater, on the 20th, right after he returned from Washington, in preparation for a cabinet decision on the release.118 Segye Ilbo editorialized that, concerns about its safety among the citizens of both Japan and South Korea remain, even though the IAEA has released a report stating that the planned discharge of contaminated water meets international standards. Persuading their own citizens, and even more so, the people of South Korea, poses a significant challenge for the Japanese government. Until both populations are reassured, it remains crucial for the governments of South Korea and Japan to collaborate effectively.119

The unresolved historical issues between South Korea and Japan also remain to be addressed, and failure to handle them sensitively could become an obstacle to cooperation. In an editorial, the progressive Hankyoreh blamed Yoon for swiftly adopting a "history-covering" approach, disregarding the efforts of prior administrations and civil society to address historical issues with Japan. Despite the US characterizing this as a "historical decision," the basis for advancing without garnering public understanding remains fragile. It has been pointed out that the administration lacks a long-term strategy for resolving the North Korean nuclear issue and managing inter-Korean relations.. The editorial warned that, rather than praising the "historical" nature of South Korea-US-Japan cooperation, Yoon needs to carefully develop measures to address the costs and risks that South Korea will face.120

The conservative Joongang Ilbo, in an editorial, highlighted that despite the sensitive issues surrounding the recent summit – including Japan’s historical problems, territorial claims over Dokdo, and the release of contaminated water from the Fukushima nuclear plant – cooperation among the three nations was imperative, driven by the severe security crisis on the Korean Peninsula stemming from North Korea’s nuclear and missile threats, alongside the urgent global economic challenges that needed to be addressed.121

1. “美 핵잠수함, 핵미사일 20개 싣고 42년만에 부산 기항,” Dong-A Ilbo, July 19, 2023,

2. Ibid.

3. “美 전략핵잠수함, 42년 만에 한국왔다…한미 NCG 통해 일체형 확장억제체제,” Hankook Ilbo, July 18, 2023,

4. “미 켄터키함 부산 입항…SSBN 42년 만에 국내 기항,” Kyunghyang Shinmun, July 19, 2018,

5. “美 전략핵잠수함, 42년 만에 한국왔다…한미 NCG 통해 일체형 확장억제체제,” Hankook Ilbo, July 18, 2023,

6. “북, 새벽에 SRBM 기습발사… 美핵잠 입항ㆍNCG 출범 반발 (종합2보), Yonhap News Agency, July 19, 2023,

7. “한ㆍ미 NCG 출범, 실질적 조치로 北 핵도발 야욕 꺾어야,” Segye Ilbo, July 19, 2023,

8. “첫 한ㆍ미 NCG 회의, 국민 안심시킬 실효적 조치 도출하길,” JoongAng Ilbo, July 19, 2023,

9. Ibid.

10. Ibid.

11. “윤 대통령, 언제까지 ‘힘에 의한 평화’만 외칠 건가,” Kyunghyang Shinmun, July 19, 2023,

12. Ibid.

13. “북 외무성, 현정은 방북 추진에 “검토해볼 의향도 없어,”Yonhap News Agency, July 1, 2023,

14. “20년 전 방북 ‘정주영 통일소’ 닫힌 통일의 문 여나,” Kyunghyang Shinmun, April 30,2018,

15. “남측 관광객 피격사망을 둘러싼 의문점,”Yonhap News Agency, July 11, 2008,

16. “북 외무성,현정은 방북 추진에 “검토해볼 의향도 없어.”

17. Ibid.

18. “ ‘현정은 방북 거부’ 북한 조평통 대신 외무성이 나선 속뜻은?” Hankyoreh, July 2,2023,

19. “南 내치며 日에 다가서려는 北의 술책,”Dong-A Ilbo, July 2, 2023,

20. Ibid.

21. “현정은 방북무산, 정전 70주년에 모두 끊긴 남북관계,” Kyunghyang Shinmun, July 2, 2023,

22. Ibid.

23. “ ‘남조선’ 대신 ‘대한민국’… 김여정, 돌연 말바꾼 이유,” Dong-A Ilbo, July 11, 2023,

24. “ ‘남측’ 대신 ‘대한민국’ 쓴 北… 연락사무소 폭파 때와 닮았다,” JoongAng Ilbo, July 11, 2023,

25. “北 첫 사용 ‘대한민국’ 용어, 무심코 넘길 일 아니다,” Chosun Ilbo, July 12,2023,

26. “ ‘대한민국’ 호칭한 김여정, 수상쩍은 남북관계 전환 의도,” Hankook Ilbo, July 12, 2023,

27. “ ‘미 정찰기 군사 대응’ 북한, 비합리적 긴장고조 말아야,” Hankyoreh, July 11, 2023,

28. Ibid.

29. “尹, ‘北미사일’에 나토서 NSC…’군사ㆍ외교조치 차질없이 실시’ (종합),”Yonhap News Agency, July 12, 2023,

30. “북, 고체연료 ICBM 쐈나… 4월 ‘화성-18형’과 궤적 유사,”Yonhap News Agency, July 12, 2023,

31. Ibid.

32. “尹, ‘北미사일’ 에 나토서 NSC… ‘군사ㆍ외교조치 차질없이 실시’ (종합).”

33. “尹 대통령, 北미사일에 리투아니아 현지서 긴급 NSC 상임위,” Chosun Ilbo, July 12, 2023,

34. “김여정 ‘대한민국’ 발언 직후 미사일 도발, 북한 더 위험해졌다,” Maeil Kyungjae, July 12, 2023,

35. Ibid.

36. “ ‘대한민국’ 운운한 뒤 탄도미사일 쏜 北,” Seoul Shinmun, July 13, 2023, 

37. “정전협정 70주년 앞 북 ICBM 발사, 우발적 충돌 없어야,” Kyunghyang Shinmun, July 12, 2023,

38. Ibid.

39. “결국 오염수 방류 허용한 IAEA···기시다 ‘방류 시점’ 결정만 남아,” Kyunghyang Shinmun, July 4, 2023,

40. Ibid.

41. “IAEA ‘후쿠시마’ 오염수 해양 방류, 국제안전기준 부합”(종합),” Yonhap News Agency, July 4, 2023,

42. Ibid.

43. “결국 오염수 방류 허용한 IAEA···기시다 ‘방류 시점’ 결정만 남아,” Kyunghyang Shinmun, July 4, 2023,

44. “정부 ‘IAEA 결론 존중’…日 ‘8월 오염수 방류,’” Segye Ilbo, July 5, 2023,

45. Ibid.

46. “이재명 ‘IAEA보고서 검증 안돼···日오염수 저지 위해 모든 방안 강구,’” Chosun Ilbo, July 5, 2023,

47. “총선과 정쟁만을 위한 민주당의 억지 괴담 정치. 국민의 생명과 안전을 볼모로 한 인질극이다. [국민의 힘 유상범 수석대변인 논평],” ,People’s power party, July 5, 2023,

48. “시위대 달려들고 野는 면전비난… 폭행 빼고 다 당한 IAEA 총장,” Chosun Ilbo, July 10, 2023,

49. “IAEA 후쿠시마 보고서 발표···정부, 다각도로 대책 챙겨야,” JoongAng Ilbo, July 5, 2023,

50. Ibid.

51. “IAEA, 日 오염수 ‘안전’…정부 국민불안 해소 진력해야,” Hankook Ilbo, July 5, 2023,

52. Ibid.

53. “오염수, 이제 지속적 감시망 구축에 초점을,” Kookmin Ilbo, July 8, 2023,

54. “IAEA가 추진한 일 오염수 방류, 불안 해소 때까지 보류해야,” Kyunghyang Shinmun, July 4, 2023,

55. “일본 손 들어준 IAEA 보고서, 오염수 방류 정당화 못해”, Hankyoreh, July 4,2023,

56. Ibid.

57. “ “오염수 안전”IAEA 총장에 “日이 마셔라” 억지 부린 민주당”,Segye Ilbo, July 9, 2023,

58. Ibid.

59. “기시다, 尹요청에 “기준치 넘으면 방류 중단””,Dong-A Ilbo, July 12,2023,

60. “尹 “오염수 기준 초과시 알려야” 기시다 “문제 발생 땐 즉각 중단”, Segye Ilbo, July 12, 2023,

61. Ibid.

62. Ibid.

63. Ibid.

64. “ ‘돌발 변수’ 잘 관리해 한ㆍ일 관계개선 흐름 살려 가길,” JoongAng Ilbo, July 14, 2023,

65. Ibid.

66. Ibid.

67. Ibid.

68. “日 기시다, 오염수 모니터링 韓 전문가 참여 수용하라,” Segye Ilbo, July 13, 2023,

69. Ibid.

70. Ibid.

71. “ ‘일 오염수’ 용인한 빈손 대통령에 찬사 바친 정부여당,” Hankyoreh, July 13, 2023,

72. Ibid.

73. “일본 계획 그대로 오염수 방류 승인한 윤 대통령,” Kyunghyang Shinmun, July 13, 2023,

74. Ibid.

75. “韓-나토, ITPP 체결… ‘新안보협력체’ 격상,” Seoul Kyungjae, July 11, 2023,

76. Ibid.

77. “한ㆍ나토 ITPP 체결… 협력 격상, 윤 대통령 ‘협력 틀 제도화,’” Kyunghyang Shinmun, July 11, 2023,

78. “나토와 군사정보 고속도로 뚫린다… 尹, ‘바이시스’ 가입 결정,”Yonhap News Agency, July 12, 2023,

79. Ibid.

80. Ibid.

81. Ibid.

82. “韓-나토 파트너십 격상, ‘힘을 통한 평화’ 첫걸음이다,” Maeil Kyungjae, July 11, 2023,

83. “韓-나토 안보협력 속 北 ICBM 도발, 힘에 이한 평화가 답이다,” Segye Ilbo, July 12, 2023,

84. “尹, 우크라 전격 방문… ‘자유 연대’ 행동으로 보여줘,” Chosun Ilbo, July 17, 2023,

85. “윤 대통령 부부, 우크라 전격 방문…곧 젤렌스키와 정상회담,” Hankyoreh, July 15, 2023,

86. Ibid.

87. “尹, 우크라 전격 방문… ‘자유 연대’ 행동으로 보여줘,” Chosun Ilbo, July 17, 2023,

88. “70년전 한국상황이 떠올랐다…우크라이나 교전지역 방문한 윤석열,” Maeil Kyungjae, July 16, 2023,

89. Ibid.

90. “尹, 우크라 전격 방문… ‘자유 연대’ 행동으로 보여줘,” Chosun Ilbo, July 17, 2023,

91. “70년전 한국상황이 떠올랐다”…우크라이나 교전지역 방문한 윤석열.”

92. Ibid.

93. Ibid.

94. “尹, 우크라 전격 방문…가치연대ㆍ재건협력 발판 되기를,” Kookmin Ilbo, July 14, 2023,

95. “우크라이나 자유 지키는 국제 연대에 우리도 힘 보태야,” Chosun Ilbo, July 17, 2023,

96. “윤대통령의 우크라이나 ‘깜짝 방문,’ 사려 깊은 결정이었나,” Kyunghyang Shinmun, July 16, 2023,

97. “ ‘반러 전선’ 노골화한 윤 대통령 우크라이나 방문,” Hankyoreh, July 17, 2023,

98. “바이든 정부 최초·유일 美국빈·캠프데이비드 초청은 尹대통령,” Maeil Business News Korea, August 20, 2023,

99. “한미일 정상, 중국 콕 집어 일방적 현상변경 시도 강하게 반대,” Joongang Ilbo, August 19, 2023,

100. “Historical trilateral summit cements partnership in writing,” Joongang Ilbo, August 20, 2023,

101. “국민 동의 업이 ‘대중 봉쇄’ 최일선에 선 윤 정부의 위험한 외교,” Kyunghyang Shinmun, August 20, 2023,

102. “’3국 준군사동맹’ 가시화…또 나홀로 외교,” Kyunghyang Shinmun, August 17, 2023,

103. “국민 동의 업이 ‘대중 봉쇄’ 최일선에 선 윤 정부의 위험한 외교.”

104. “’3국 준군사동맹’ 가시화…또 나홀로 외교.”

105. “한미일 ‘준동맹화’ 위험 요소, 점검은 하고 있는 건가,” Hankyoreh, August 20, 2023,

106. “한미일 안보·경제 공동체, 위상 달라진 한국의 기회와 책임,” Chosun Ilbo, August 20, 2023,

107. “‘한미일 준동맹’ 우려, 국민 설명 없이 또 자화자찬만,” Hankyoreh, August 21, 2023,

108. “중, “아시아판 나토 결성하려는 시도, 아태 평화 위협,” Joongang Ilbo, August 19, 2023,

109. ‘“NYT “한미일 정상회의, ‘아시아판 미니 나토’ 중국 우려 심화,” Yonhap News Agency, August 20, 2023,

110. “중, 아시아판 나토 결성하려는 시도, 아태 평화 위협.”

111. Ibid.

112. “중, 아시아판 나토 결성하려는 시도, 아태 평화 위협.”

113. “캠프데이비드 이후 시험대에 오른 대중국외교,” Maeil Kyungjae, August 21, 2023,

114. “중·러와 정상적 관계 관리할 지혜가 과제로 남았다,” Chosun Ilbo, August 22, 2023,

115. “‘한미일 준동맹’ 우려, 국민 설명 없이 또 자화자찬만,” Hankyoreh, August 21, 2023,

116. ‘국민 동의 업이 ‘대중 봉쇄’ 최일선에 선 윤 정부의 위험한 외교,’ Kyunghyang Shinmun, August 20, 2023,

117. “日기시다, 후쿠시마 오염수 방류설비 시찰…’8월말 개시 유력,’" Yonhap News Agency, August 20, 2023,

118. “한미일 회의 끝나자마자 후쿠시마 간 기시다… 오염수 방류 절차 시작할 듯,” Chosun Ilbo, August 21, 2023,

119. “일 오염수 방류 임박, 한국민 불안 해소할 후속조치 있어야,” Segye Ilbo, August, 21, 2023,

120. “한미일 ‘준동맹화’ 위험 요소, 점검은 하고 있는 건가,” Hankyoreh, August 20, 2023,

121. “캠프 데이비드 합의, 지속 가능성이 중요하다,” Joongang Ilbo, August 22, 2023,

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