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The Republic of Korea as a Foreign Policy Actor

The Republic of Korea as a Foreign Policy Actor

Creative Powers in the 21st Century: the case of South Korea (John Swenson-Wright)


This is a Korea Foundation funded three-year research project co-ordinated in collaboration with Chatham House. The 21st Century reveals ever more clearly the limitations facing the so-called ‘great’ or ‘major’ powers, in particular the United States, China and Russia, to provide global leadership or to achieve their international objectives unilaterally.  At the same time, mid-sized countries - sometimes defined as ‘middle powers’ - such as Brazil, Germany, South Korea, Japan, Turkey, Indonesia, Norway, Canada and the UK, are playing, or seeking to play, increasingly influential roles internationally, responding to the lack of global leadership from major powers and the difficulties of achieving consensus for action in long-standing international institutions such as the UN and the G20.


The objective of this project is to explore in greater depth the concept of ‘creative power’ as it applies to the role of mid-sized powers and global governance at the beginning of the 21st Century. The project will use examples from the present day and as far back as the last ten years to assess (1) the key strategies, (2) the national attributes and (3) the international dynamics that enable creative powers to promote international prosperity and security. The project will explore two dimensions of this challenge:


First, how can mid-sized countries best use their creative power to bring about progress in key public goods, such as sustainable development, energy efficiency and environmental stewardship and non-proliferation?


Second, how effective a role can middle powers play in helping deliver regional security? The project will take as its case study regional security in North East and South East Asia.


The overarching theme running across these strands of work will be the role of mid-sized powers in tackling such problems and their use of ‘creative power’.