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Shaping up India-South Korea Relationship


South Korea, with its innovative spirit, can actively participate in India’s ambitious endeavors to modernize its ports, develop a sustainable blue economy, and promote environmentally friendly green shipping initiatives.


GS2- IR-Bilateral, Regional and Global Groupings and Agreements involving India and/or affecting India’s interests.

Mains Question:

South Korea with its pertinent pioneering streak can partake in India’s ambitious port modernisation, blue-economy and decarbonised green-shipping initiatives. Comment. (15 marks, 250 words).

Shift in Global power:

  • It is evident that the global focus has shifted away from the Euro-Atlantic region to the vast Indo-Pacific area, as seen in demographic trends, trade, investment flows, technological developments, and more.
  • This shift is characterized by the numerous major and middle powers, both resident and non-resident, formulating independent Indo-Pacific strategies and adjusting their strategic calculations to align with the changing balance of power.
  • The Republic of Korea (ROK), by unveiling its ‘Strategy for a Free, Peaceful and Prosperous Indo-Pacific’ (SFPPIP) in December 2022, has joined this trend.
  • Far from lagging behind, South Korea’s strategy injects a refreshing dynamism into the already diverse geopolitical landscape of the region.

Indo-Pacific vision and South Korea’s foreign policy:

The new Indo-Pacific Vision aims to address three persistent challenges in South Korean foreign policy.

  • Firstly, it seeks to shift the country’s focus away from its obsession with its northern neighbor, which has confined it to a sub-regional role and consumed a significant portion of its diplomatic resources.
  • Secondly, it aims to break free from the dominance of U.S.-China competition, which, while necessary for security and economic reasons, has limited South Korea’s broader ambitions.
  • Thirdly, it aspires to enhance South Korea’s global influence by proclaiming itself a potential ‘Global Pivotal State’ (GPS). This involves establishing economically and technologically robust strategic partnerships, increasing national significance, diversifying sovereign risk through multi-alignment, and providing public goods in various sectors.

Relevance of South Korea’s policy for India:

  • Both countries have moved beyond their traditional fixations (South Korea on North Korea and India on Pakistan) and have sought greater integration into the Indo-Pacific region.
  • India, despite its economic transformation, has struggled to establish itself as a credible provider of public goods, and this is an area where South Korea can collaborate effectively.
  • Both countries share middle-power characteristics, focusing on calibrated deterrence and pragmatic engagement with China while maintaining economic and technological balance.
  • They are also mindful of the need for a balanced approach between the United States and China, given their economic ties with China.

Way Forward:

  • To solidify their partnership, South Korea and India can build on their economic relations, diversify export destinations, and engage in infrastructure development, innovation, and technology-driven cooperation in the Indo-Pacific.
  • South Korea’s strengths, such as expertise in port modernization, island development, blue economy, and green shipping, align with India’s national priorities.
  • This collaboration would not only benefit both countries but also position South Korea as a key stakeholder in India’s growth story.
  • In addition, South Korea can leverage India’s youthful demographic and intellectual capital to foster mobility and address Indian expectations for market access and supply chain development.


South Korea’s Indo-Pacific orientation can elevate its profile and visibility in the region, and deepening bilateral cooperation with India can become a cornerstone of the rebalancing strategic framework in the Indo-Pacific.

December 2023