Is it Wise to Push South Korea Toward China-Containment?

In April, the Biden administration released its Indo-Pacific strategy in which countering China featured prominently. In May, South Koreans elected a new president, Yoon Suk Yeol, who has promised to be tougher on Beijing. How should the United States approach South Korea on the issue of China? Based on his campaign rhetoric, Washington expects President Yoon to be more sympathetic to the U.S. position on China compared with his progressive predecessor, Moon Jae-in. Yet President Yoon will face major constraints in moving toward a more confrontational China policy, as South Korean political elites differ substantially on how best to deal with a more assertive China amid growing Sino–U.S. competition. In Quincy Brief, “The Folly of Pushing South Korea Toward a China Containment Strategy,” Jessica J. Lee and Sarang Shidore explained why pushing South Korea toward China-containment could undermine American interests in the region.  To explore these issues and the Brief in greater depth, particularly in light of President Biden’s recent visit to South Korea and Secretary Blinken’s speech on China, the Quincy Institute will host a panel discussion featuring Joon Hyung Kim, Professor at Handong Global University and former Chancellor of Korea National Diplomatic Academy; Andrew Yeo, senior fellow and the SK-Korea Foundation Chair in Korea Studies at Brookings Institution’s Center for East Asia Policy Studies; and Jessica J. Lee, senior research fellow in the East Asia program at the Quincy Institute. QI’s Director of Studies Sarang Shidore will moderate the conversation.


Joon Hyung Kim

Dr. Joon Hyung Kim is Professor of the International Studies Department, Handong Global University. He was Chancellor of Korea National Diplomatic Academy from August 2019 to August 2021. His areas of specialization are theories of international relations and Northeast Asia, including US-China, US-ROK, and inter-Korean relations. Kim was also invited as a Fulbright Visiting Scholar to George Mason University and taught several courses. Since 2011, Kim has been involved in the Korea Peace Forum, a renowned network-based think-tank specialized in peace and unification. In 2016, Kim served as an advisor to Moon Jae-in’s presidential campaign. After Moon was elected, Kim joined the Government Transition Committee and the Presidential Commission on Policy Planning (Security and Foreign Policy Sub-committee). Kim has previously served in advisory committees of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Ministry of Defense, the Ministry of Unification, and the National Security Council. He earned his Bachelor’s Degree at Yonsei University (1986), and M.A. and Ph.D. at George Washington University.

Andrew Yeo

Andrew Yeo is a senior fellow and the SK-Korea Foundation Chair in Korea Studies at Brookings Institution’s Center for East Asia Policy Studies. He is also a professor of politics at The Catholic University of America in Washington, D.C. His latest book, “State, Society and Markets in North Korea” is out now with Cambridge University Press. Yeo’s scholarly publications can be found in International Studies Quarterly, European Journal of International Relations, Perspectives on Politics, Comparative Politics, Comparative Strategy, Journal of East Asian Studies, and International Relations of the Asia-Pacific among others. Yeo is a former term member of the Council on Foreign Relations and a member of the National Committee on North Korea. He was awarded the Young Faculty Scholar's Award from Catholic University in 2013. He is part of the first cohort of the Mansfield-Luce Asia Scholars Network (2020-21) and the first cohort of the Korea Foundation-Mansfield Foundation Scholar-Policy Nexus (2013-14). Yeo received his doctorate in government from Cornell University, and bachelor's in psychology and international studies magna cum laude from Northwestern University.

Jessica J. Lee

Jessica J. Lee is a Senior Research Fellow in the East Asia Program at the Quincy Institute. Her research interests include U.S. foreign policy toward the Indo-Pacific region, with an emphasis on the Korean Peninsula. Lee’s analysis has been featured in The Wall Street Journal, Washington Post, Foreign Affairs, Foreign Policy, The National Interest, USA Today, the Washington Times, The Nation, Arms Control Today, and Quincy Institute’s news platform Responsible Statecraft. Lee is a non-resident senior associate fellow at the Asia Pacific Leadership Network, a term member of the Council on Foreign Relations, and a 2022 Arms Control Negotiation Academy Fellow with the Negotiation Task Force at Harvard University. Lee began her career on Capitol Hill, where she served as a professional staff member handling the Asia region for the chairman of the House Committee on Foreign Affairs, and as a senior legislative assistant on international security and trade for a member of Congress on the Ways and Means Committee. Lee holds a B.A. in Political Science from Wellesley College and an A.M. in Regional Studies-East Asia from Harvard University.

Sarang Shidore (Moderator)

Sarang Shidore is Director of Studies at the Quincy Institute, and is a senior non-resident fellow at the Council on Strategic Risks. His areas of research and analysis are geopolitical risk, grand strategy, and energy/climate security, with a special emphasis on Asia. Sarang has collaborated and published with multiple organizations including the Asian Peace Program, Brookings Institution, Center for Strategic and International Studies, Council on Foreign Relations, Council on Strategic Risks, Oxford Analytica, Paulson Institute, Stimson Center, UK Ministry of Defense, and Woodwell Climate Research Center. He has more than 80 publications to his credit in journals, edited volumes, and media outlets in his areas of expertise. Prior to his current role at the Quincy Institute, Sarang was a senior research scholar at the University of Texas at Austin and senior global analyst at the geopolitical risk firm Stratfor Inc. and earlier also spent a decade in product management in the technology industry.