ICAS Special Contribution
Strategic Views of the ROK-US Alliance
Jin Ha Hwang
Institute for Corean-American Studies, Inc.
965 Clover Court, Blue Bell, PA 19422
Biographic sketch & Links: Jin Ha Hwang
[Editor's note: We gratefully acknowledge the special contribution of this paper
with written permission to ICAS of Jin Ha Hwang. sjk]
Keynote Speech delivered for 5th Seoul-Washington Forum
June 13, 2011, Washington, D.C.
by the Korea Foundation and the Brookings Institution
"Strategic Views of the ROK-US Alliance"
The Honorable Jin Ha Hwang
Member of National Assembly of the Republic of Korea
Dear Director of Center for Northeast Asian Policy Studies of the Brookings
Institution Richard Bush, Executive Vice President of the Korea Foundation
Ambassador Hahn, Young-hee, distinguished Korea and US participants of 5th Seoul-
Washington Forum, and guests.
It is my great pleasure and honor to be invited to 5th Seoul-Washington Forum and have a
chance to deliver a keynote speech. I am currently serving at Committee of Foreign Affairs,
Trade, and Unification at National Assembly of the Republic of Korea. Taking this
opportunity I would like to sincerely appreciate the Brookings institution and the Korea
Foundation for organizing this meaningful and timely forum.
Today, I will discuss and focus my remarks on reviewing the past and present of the ROK-US
alliance which have sustained for more than half a century after the ROK-US Mutual Defense
Treaty in 1953. I will then propose goals of a future-oriented global alliance and what to do
for attaining these goals.
I characterize the ROK-US alliance as:
A blood alliance under which we fought shoulder to shoulder in major wars such as the
Korean War, the Vietnam War, the Gulf War, the Iraq War, and the Afghanistan war.
A glorious alliance which we must take pride in for its remarkable contributions to the
stability and peace of the Korean Peninsula and the region.
A hope alliance which we are transforming for promoting global peace and
In these respects, I first would like to introduce what we have achieved through
successful development and sustainment of the ROK-US alliance over more than half a
century. Among many successful outcomes of the ROK-US alliance, three main
First, the ROK-US alliance has successfully achieved the stability of Northeast Asian
region and prevented a war from occurring on the Korean peninsula.
Although North Korea has conducted military provocations more than 2,500 times on South
Korea since the Armistice agreement in 1953, Korea and the US have maintained peace and
stability of the peninsula by successfully managing and overcoming these provocations with
an unprecedented bilateral combined defense posture.
Second, the ROK-US military alliance achieved two miracles such as a remarkable
economic growth and political democracy of Korea today which was completely turned into
ruins because of the Korean War.
Korea’s per capita GDP has increased to over 20,000 US dollars from 67 in early 1950s.
Now, Korea ranks no. 15 in the world by nominal GDP. Korea’s free democracy is a role
model for undemocratic and democratizing countries in the world. The Economic
Intelligence Unit released its 2010 edition of democracy index survey which ranks Korea as
no. 1 in Asia and no. 20 in the world.
Third, Korea and the U.S. have achieved the most successful alliance despite of many
challenges which were overcome owing to a mutual understanding and trust between the two
This successful alliance gives the two nations a great pride and confidence, and a conviction
of firm and solid alliance. Our close partnership over such a short period of half a century has
evolved into a bilateral, regional, and finally global alliance which I believe an unprecedented
and remarkable history in the world.
With bearing in mind these achievements, it is very crucial for us to assess the
current situation surrounding the ROK-US alliance when considering the future shape
of the alliance. We are required to pay a special attention to unchanged conditions
which I think to be overcome. And these conditions should be considered as core
issues for resolving problems on the Korean Peninsula, which I believe leading the
future development of the ROK-US alliance.
First, the Korean peninsula remains divided.
There has been no change at all since the Armistice agreement in 1953. Despite of
strenuous efforts for securing a peace treaty to supersede the Armistice agreement, it comes to
see that our efforts would not bring about any improvement or progress unless North Korea
changes itself. It is neither goal nor solution that the division of the Korean Peninsula
Second, military and non-military threat posed by North Korea is still present and
imminent, and further it escalates a level of its threats.
North Korea’s unification strategy for communizing South Korea and building a socialist
state in the South still remains same in North Korean Constitution and Workers’ Party Bylaw.
In addition, North Korea reinforced a family-based power succession system even tougher.
Since the end of the Korean War in 1953, North Korea has continued provocations on South
Korea. And, the recent provocations such as a planned torpedo attack on South Korean
naval vessel and artillery attacks at Yeonpyeong Island in 2010 were an uncontroversial act of
war which is by no means acceptable to the international community. North Korea’s current
threat is a core cause of destabilizing the peace and security on the Korean Peninsula, the
region, and the world. I strongly believe that North Korea would not abandon its plans and
programs of building up its conventional and non-conventional military capabilities,
developing nuclear weapon and ballistic missile, and uranium enrichment activities unless
attaining its strategic goals.
Third, it becomes much clearer to us that the stability on the Korean Peninsula has been
the linchpin for a regional stability and peace.
In the past, before the outbreak of the Korean War, the Korean Peninsula has been invaded
from outsiders more than 930 times. So, the peninsula was a key ground of power struggle
among regional powers. A Cold War remnant division of the peninsula and North Korea’s
constant provocations are the most serious destabilizing factor to security environment of
Asia and the world. Thus, in the past and present, the stability of the Korean Peninsula is a
crucial determinant of regional peace and security.
These are unchanged elements which are still threatening us and on the other hand
adversities to be overcome. And, we need to look at changed elements owing to our
mutual efforts and successful alliance.
First, Korea’s national capability and international status are remarkably changed.
Korea currently ranks 15th in the world by nominal GDP. In terms of political development,
Korea is illustrated as one of the most successful democratized countries. Korea is now
very actively and proactively participating in international activities. As you all aware Korea
successfully hosted G-20 Summit last November, and will host nuclear summit next year.
The Korean government prioritizes a national goal of increasing international contributions to
the global community. These contributions include increasing official development
assistance (ODA), expanding peacekeeping operations, transferring and sharing economic
development experience and knowledge, and others.
Second, power and center of the international politics shifted to Asia from the West.
We are saying that the 21st century is Asia-Pacific Era. Asian Development Bank (ADB)
released its report "Asia 2050-Realizin the Asian Century" last May, and
speculates that if Asia continues the current trend of economic growth, Asia would occupy
more than 50% of world GDP, trade, and investment by 2050. In political area, Asian
countries make strenuous efforts to overcome their differences and promoting political
integration through diverse functions of regional government and non-government
Third, the rise of China is a formidable element to be strategically considered.
It is not doubtful that the rise of China is the most significant change of the international
politics in the 21st century. Owing to magnificient economic growth, China replaced Japan
as no. 2 economy in 2010. In terms of politics, its recent patterns of foreign policy are
uncovered as an aggressive stance on international issues directly related to China’s national
interests. As a regional and global power, China spurs military modernization and
development of high-tech military weapons. Although the size of China’s annual military
expenditure, now no.2 in the world, is nearly one forth of US military budget, China has
maintained a double-digit increase of its military budget since the mid-1990s. It is
commonly understood that China is stick to strengthening its national power and expanding a
sphere of influence in dealing international issues.
Distinguished Ladies and Gentlemen,
Now, it is our responsibility to further develop our alliance partnership in a strategic context
of the said unchanged and changed elements. And, we have to pass down a successful
partnership to a following generation. In these respects, I would like to stress a few issues
in need of a new perspective and bold action for creating a successful future-oriented global
First, the ROK-US Alliance should be even further developed as more comprehensive
one through KOR-US FTA ratification and implementation, as it is used to be a security
Second, the issues on the Korean Peninsula are no longer dependent variables on US Asia
and global strategy, but should be considered as independent variables on designing US
Korea is a core country with Japan and China for a US strategic context in the region. As I
explained above, during more than five thousand years, it should be remembered that when
peace and stability on the Korean Peninsula, the region was stable and peaceful.
Third, it should be sublated that our mutual relationship is dependent on one party’s
I am confident that making decisions through close consultation and wide support from the
public will make a better balanced decision for doing better our job. We have experienced
the recent difficulties and never forget the lessons given.
Fourth, the ROK and US government must work together to demonstrate a strategic
synergy of the alliance.
Finding a way of integrating each country’s differentiated capabilities and strengths leads to
increase the roles and responsibilities of the alliance at the global community. We are well
aware of the strengths and weaknesses of our nations. I believe that when merging our
strengths, we gain more strength and overcome our differences.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
We have a strong will and obvious goal for the future of the ROK-US alliance.
The Joint Vision signed in June 2009 by President Barack Obama and President Lee, Myung-
bak clearly stated our strong will and obvious goals. Although I do not introduce the details
of the Joint Vision here, our fundamental will and goals are:
Primarily contributing to peace and security for the Korean Peninsula,
Promoting and strengthening our partnership for a peaceful reunification of the divided
South and North.
And, with a solid foundation of respecting and pursuing common values of free democracy
and market economy, the ROK-US alliance must move toward promoting and increasing its
responsibilities and roles for global peace and prosperity.
There are 28 thousand US servicemen and women currently serving shoulder to shoulder
with Koreans for the defense of Korea. All of they shout out in chorus "Let’s go
And we have our precious asset to keep and develop.
More than 2 million Korean Americans living in the United States. More than 1.5 million
visitors travelling every year between the two nations,
We have many more precious assets of sustaining the ROK-US alliance and its future
Together with them and you here, I would like to shout out
Join me "Let’s go together!"
Thank you very much for your attention.
This page last updated June 20, 2011 jdb