Pyungwon Kong

Date of Graduation


Document Type



The United States (U.S.)-Republic of Korea (ROK) alliance is one of the most successful bilateral alliances within the international system, since its formation after the Korean War (1950-1953) in 1953. However, there has been increasing divergence in the perception of Seoul and Washington about the alliance. Thus, the dependent variable of this study is change in South Korea's perception of the alliance. Not downplaying the importance of systemic explanations of this phenomenon, this study employs foreign policy approaches to explain transformation of Seoul's perception of the alliance. However, the study goes beyond democratization and war theory to analyze how socio-economic and political transformations of South Korea between 1953 and 2003 have affected the change in Seoul's perception of the alliance. In 1987/88 ROK embarked on a democratization process. The study finds that leadership change, proliferation of civic organization and media outlets with diverse ideological orientations has contributed to growing South Koreans demand for "equal partnership" in the alliance and the need for inter-Korean cooperation. Also rapid economic transformation in South Korea as well as generational change has contributed to demand for more assertive foreign policy. The growing sense of nationalism (demand for equal partnership and assertive foreign policy) and the quest for inter-Korean cooperation have transformed Seoul's perception of the U.S.-ROK alliance. This study makes contribution to foreign policy analysis by helping us to understand how non-fixed and non-structural domestic dynamics affect the way some countries behave in the international system.