South Korea at the Crossroads: Autonomy and Alliance in an Era of Rival Powers

Columbia Univ. Jan. 2018. 352p. illus. notes. bibliog. index. ISBN 9780231185486. $35; ebk. ISBN 9780231546188. POL SCI
What are the challenges and opportunities that South Korea faces in the current international environment? Snyder (senior fellow for Korea studies, Council on Foreign Relations; China's Rise and the Two Koreas) addresses this question by reviewing the Republic of Korea's foreign relations from 1948 to the present, and analyzing the country's options in the contemporary situation. The realty of a rising China, and the possibility of U.S. retrenchment, is causing debates within South Korea regarding whether to continue alignment with the United States, adjust to a China-led Asia, or chart a middle course between the rival countries. Despite South Korea's growing power in recent decades, especially economically, it is still limited in what it can do internationally, as it must consider the intentions of the larger powers that surround it. The author makes a strong argument that South Korea's best choice is to stay with the U.S.-led alliance for the time being. This book includes an intriguing chapter on the prospects of Korean unification.
VERDICT This cogently presented work is essential for specialists of East Asian international relations and those interested in South Korea's historical and present-day foreign policy.

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