The Middle East Reopens for Business but with Old and New Hazards for South Korea

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The Middle East offers huge trade opportunities to South Korea,
especially after the P5+1 agreement with Iran. President Park
Geun-hye’s May 2016 visit to Iran has demonstrated this economic
potential very clearly. However, Seoul should be aware that it is
not the only state that is looking for business opportunities in the
region. Seoul should likewise take into account the political and
security threats stemming from some of the Middle East states
especially after the Arab Spring (for example, Syria and Yemen),
which might endanger South Korean assets and investments in the
region. This paper will analyze the current South Korean Middle
East policy and offer recommendations. The Middle East should
not be perceived as one unified region, particularly in light of
the rising tension between Iran and Saudi Arabia and the military
involvement of the superpowers in the region. Seoul would be
advised, therefore, to customize its Middle East policy to allow it
to maximize its economic benefits while minimizing the security
risks. Seoul should try to maximize trade with the stabilized states
in the region, while paying attention to the regional implications.
South Korea should consider offering assistance to the post-Arab
Spring states to stabilize their economy and political system but
without getting involved in internal and regional conflicts. In the
destabilized states in the Middle East, rather than interfering in
these conflicts, Seoul could help prepare contingency plans for
their rebuilding once the civil wars end.
Original languageEnglish
Number of pages8
JournalOn Korea: Academic Paper Series
StatePublished - 2016


  • Middle East, South Korea, trade, security, energy


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