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Part III: South Korea on the International Stage

The Legal Hermit Kingdom: The Korean Legal Industry and Its Opening, by Jason Park
Recently, Korea has concluded free trade agreements with various Asian, European, and Latin American countries and the much-discussed Korea-United States free trade agreement (KORUS FTA) may be ratified in the near future. One of the provisions within these new free trade agreements allows law firms from that country to establish offices and client bases in Korea, bringing international competition to the heavily protected Korean legal market. This market liberalization may have certain important impacts for both domestic and foreign attorneys and consumers. For example, domestic corporate clients in Korea may benefit from more accessible international legal service, and foreign firms operating in Korea may benefit from legal service provided by attorneys familiar with their native legal system. Increased competition may also reduce the cost of legal service for the clients. Despite these benefits, there may be disadvantages as well. Over-globalization of legal professionals may adversely affect their ability as attorneys and advisors, and the possible domination of the market by American or British law firms may compromise its ability to offer balanced international legal service for clients who originate from non-common-law countries such as Germany and Russia. Due to Korea’s economic size, the impending KORUS FTA, and the increasing importance of international legal practice in facilitating smooth international economic transactions, legal market liberalization in Korea must be closely studied.

“The Legal Hermit Kingdom: The Korean Legal Industry and Its Opening,” is an excerpt from Part III of the 2009 SAIS U.S.-Korea Yearbook.

The U.S.-ROK Alliance in an Evolving Asia, by Momoko Sato
The U.S.-ROK alliance remains robust despite changes in the international system—particularly, the end of the Cold War—and amidst some skepticism, the alliance has been, and will remain, an essential component of both nations’ strategic interests. However, the emergence of a nascent cooperative atmosphere in East Asia adds new dimensions of possible challenges and strength. While it is difficult to foresee whether the cooperative efforts among China, Japan, and South Korea will deepen into more significant strategic and institutionalized mechanisms, the evolving regional architecture of East Asia is one that nonetheless will have a significant impact on the framework of U.S.-Asia policy. The potential changes are both a challenge and an opportunity to test the flexibility and adaptive ability of both U.S. policy and the U.S.-ROK alliance.

“The U.S.-ROK Alliance in an Evolving Asia,” is an excerpt from Part III of the 2009 SAIS U.S.-Korea Yearbook.

The U.S.-ROK Bilateral Economic Relationship: The 2008 Crisis and Beyond, by Neil Shenai
This essay surveys the U.S.-ROK bilateral monetary relationship since the Asian Financial Crisis. After describing the institutional changes brought about by the 1998 crisis, including banking sector reform, current account management, and foreign exchange accumulation, this paper explores the implications of the global financial crisis of 2008 on the South Korean economy. This paper contends that the social construction of market confidence, vis-à-vis an announcement of a currency swap with Korea from the United States, helped stabilize the South Korean currency and equity markets. Therefore, the mere announcement of the currency swap, as opposed to its actual implementation, was the source of returned stability in the South Korean economy. Finally, this paper addresses several points of reform to help buttress the South Korean economy from foreign external macroeconomic shock.

“The U.S.-ROK Bilateral Economic Relationship: The 2008 Crisis and Beyond,” is an excerpt from Part III of the 2009 SAIS U.S.-Korea Yearbook.

South Korea and the G20, by Nick Borst
South Korea has traveled a tumultuous economic path over the past decade, facing economic collapse during the Asian Financial Crisis and then an unexpectedly quick recovery as that crisis passed. The arrival of the current global economic crisis and the skill with which the South Korean economy weathered turbulent economic conditions has led to a resurgence of interest in South Korea’s development model and given the country newfound importance in global economic decision making. This has also coincided with the rise of the G20 as the world’s premier economic forum. As a member of the G20, South Korea has pushed for the organization to enact a variety of changes to the global economic system. These changes have focused on preventing trade protectionism, putting forward its model of growth and financial regulations as an example, and acting as an advocate for the interests of developing nations. South Korea has also lobbied aggressively for hosting rights for a G20 summit and will be hosting the organization in Seoul this November. During the meeting, South Korea is likely to push for the G20 to address a wider scope of issues, such as climate change, as well as advocating for greater institutionalization of the G20 structure. A successful hosting of a G20 summit will be a pivotal moment for South Korea. It will mark South Korea’s full transition into the community of developed economies and its role as a major contributor to crafting of global economic policy. Unfortunately, achieving these goals is easier said than done; as several difficult problems will continue to plague the organization. The G20’s lack of a permanent secretariat, widely divergent interests between member nations, and lack of enforcement mechanisms will present many problems in implementing the agreed-to agenda as well as hinder the organization from addressing other noneconomic transnational issues.

“South Korea and the G20″ is an excerpt from Part III of hte 2009 SAIS U.S.-Korea Yearbook.