North Korea and Contending South Korean Identities: Analysis of the South Korean Media; Policy Implications for the United States

On April 27, Dr. Gi-Wook Shin presented a paper entitled "North Korea and Contending South Korean Identities: Analysis of the South Korean Media and Policy Implications for the United States," co-authored with Kristin C. Burke, at the Korea Economic Institute in Washington, D.C. This paper is part of a larger study of American and Korean media coverage of the U.S.-ROK alliance and the DPRK.

This paper argues that while U.S. officials approach the alliance and the DPRK as matters of national security policy, these issues are fundamental to the evolution of South Korean national identity in the post-Cold War, post-authoritarian era. Using data on media frames used by two prominent Korean newspapers from 1992 to 2003, this paper examines how Korean conservatives and progressives have advocated their views of North Korea and how the terms of this debate have changed since the implementation of the Sunshine Policy.

As South Koreans seek to redefine their national identity in the context of a developing regional and global order, there is deep and bitter division within South Korea over North Korea and the alliance. The process of reformulating national identity can be contentious and conflict-ridden and is not likely to be resolved soon. The nature of this political division on the question of identity, explored in this paper, means that even if South Korean conservatives win the upcoming presidential election, there is not likely to be a dramatic change in policies or attitudes. The debate over North Korea is a durable feature of the political landscape in the South, and the U.S. faces distinct policy challenges in coordinating with a government that represents a starkly divided polity.

For the full text of this paper, please visit the link to KEI, KEI Academic Paper Series.