Korea in the Early 21st Century and Russia’s Interests


The article is a response to a new, pioneering book Modern Korea. Metamorphoses of Turbulent Years (2008–2020) written by a group of leading Russian experts on Korea from MGIMO University: Anatoly Torkunov, Georgy Toloraya, and Ilya Dyachkov. The book is a valuable addition to the existing literature and a product of a unique approach to modern Korean studies conducted at MGIMO. The article examines and develops the comprehensive analysis provided by MGIMO professors, point out pressing issues on the Korean Peninsula and assess Russia’s potential role in solving them. The fact that the goal of denuclearizing the Korean Peninsula based on Pyonyang’s rejection of nuclear weapons not only has not been achieved, but became even more distant than before, leads us to questioning the logic behind the authors' recommendation for Russia to withdraw its support from the international system of sanctions against Pyongyang and to move closer to North Korean. We argue that easing the sanctions may mean recognizing that Russia does not believe in this goal and wishes to encourage North Korea's refusal to comply with the demands of the international community. Moreover, such an approach could be perceived as evidence of Russia’s support of some new academic theories which claim that the very system of nonproliferation has become outdated and can even be abolished altogether. At the same time, this position would reduce the role of Russia in the Korean settlement, which would inevitably have a negative impact on DPRK's renunciation of nuclear weapons in the foreseeable future. The article argues that such views, especially that the non-proliferation strategy is outdated, come into a direct contradiction with Russia's interests. The recognition of DPRK's nuclear status may spark a chain reaction in the quest for nuclear weapons in the region which in turn would create a serious security threat for Russia's eastern regions. In addition, an increase in the number of nuclear states would devalue Russia’s status as a nuclear power, thus, the policy of nonproliferation of nuclear weapons should remain a priority of Russia’s foreign policy. Overall, we conclude that Moscow's policy towards the Korean peninsula should be based on careful evaluation of the current international situation as well as Russia’s interests, and not on outdated and often counterproductive Soviet tradition.


Korean Peninsula; DPRK; Republic of Korea; nuclear and missile problem of the Korean Peninsula; Russia; Russia – North Korea relations; Russia – South Korea relations; USA.

Authors: Alexander Lukin, Oksana Pugacheva

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