Development, Trade and Foreign Affairs

Case Study: South Korea Decisions on Maritime Forces


(Photo: BBC News)

Case Study: South Korea Decisions on Maritime Forces

The incidence, which is associated with Somali pirate, has great implications to South Korea, not only economically but also strategically.

The challenges of foreign policy analysis and the potential challenges to undertake analysis for South Korea: In response to this particular issue, South Korea’s foreign policy analysts, of cause, need to make its calculations, but at the same time the common sense seems to dictate that there are number of trade-offs which challenges the foreign policy analysis. As illustrated by Timothy Walton, indicated that there are at least four different challenges that foreign policy analysts attempts to deal with such as “uncertainty,” “surprise,” “deception,” and “the future.”[1] These four items seem to be correlated with one another. Reflecting to this issue, the limited information has potentially become a primary challenge for South Korea to deal with. The information constraint and ambiguity have made a difficulty to range the events of incidence into “chronologies and timelines”[2] in a sense that it could draw a bigger picture to conclude hypothesis. The existing data, which given by the International Maritime Bureau, reports only the total estimated number of hijacked ships and unspecific areas of pirate’s operating.[3] It, thereby, acquires to have a set of cooperation in terms of detail information sharing between states and IOs related to data collection but it takes times, efforts, and collective mechanisms setting. In addition to the ambiguity and information constraint, “Jeong-The Invisible Hug Concept”[4] and “Cheomyon-Saving Face Culture”[5] have become the “socio-cultural biases and cognitive biases”[6] in the analysis. It also affects analysts’ thinking on the formulation process of possible hypotheses to predict the scenarios that may appear afterward. Then, Somali pirate’s alternatives are hardly identified in this situation, and the possibilities of the unexpected outcomes of analysis are high.

Type of decisions and decision-making units would be used by South Korea: Basically, there are different types of foreign policy decisions which largely depends upon the limited resources, objectives, and rivalry’s options. Suggested by scholars, these various decisions can be listed into “One single decision,” “Strategic/interactive decision,” “Sequential/interactive decision.”[7] However, the Somali pirate’s responding capabilities shall be also addressed. They are well-organised and equipped with heavily armed, latest hi-tech instruments, receiving contacts at ports in the Gulf of Aden.[8] In this light, among above decisions, the sequential of interactive decisions are likely to be the best type of decision for South Korea in a sense that it involves a wide range of interrelated action plans and responses between Somali pirate on one side and harmed states including South Korea on another side. They are interacted to these decisions. Additionally, it is obvious that the decision is not made by individual unit because South Korea’s leader is simply not dictator who has sole power on decision making, and this pirate incidence is not directly and immediately harmful to national security which does not need an urgent decision. Rather than a coalition decision unit, group decision unit should be used to form an EXCOM to deal with this particular ad hoc problem. The small group effectively studies the nature of Somali pirate’s incidence, timely consult with relevant stakeholders-especially working with “US Government Counter-Piracy Steering Group”,[9] and broadly seek for possible alternatives for South Korea.

Alternatives available to South Korea: “The maritime pirate costs the global economy between $7bn and $12bn a year as a global issue,”[10] Korea alone cannot take account for that, but a collective mechanisms. In order to be more effective, alternatives to South Korea are listed into three different options based on immediate, medium, and long-term approach. In the immediate approach, because energy supply is indispensable for Korean economic growth, and because Middle Eastern countries largely accounted for “84% of oil and 54% of natural gas”[11] import to South Korea, then immediate alternatives are (1) to examine other secure ways of sea lanes and ways of protections, (2) encourage supplier countries to involve in the security protection, (3) seek for other possible alternative suppliers out of this region, and (4) cooperate major allies and regional powers to study Somali Pirate and identify strategic stand points for medium approach. Regarding to the medium approach, three different collective strategies working with allies are suitable to address such as Deterrence: threaten to use of force, Compellence: use of navies power to coerce it to alter its behaviour, Attack and Defence: militarily attack those pirate bases or minimise from attack. Last but not least, long-term approach is to increase its domestic energy supply by operating domestic nuclear power plans, renewable energy sources, and efficient use of energy.

The critical and non-critical dimensions for Korean decision-makers: There are two main critical dimensions for decision-makers. First, it threats the economic performance of Korea. It is because it affects shipping, automobile, and electronic industries which does account for a large share of the Korea’s economy.[12] Secondly, there is a risk related to the political survival as the image and frame of president, foreign minister, and ruling party will be compromised in a sense that the issue is not properly addressed. With regard to the non-critical dimensions, Korea has three ranked items, (1) confronts with pirate militarily, (2) provides incentives to major industries, (3) subsidies imported oil and natural gas to stabilise the market price.

Foreign-policy decisions are always rational? At first glance it appears to be rational for foreign-policy decisions, but on closer inspection it is not always rational. One, of cause, can assert that foreign-policy decisions are rational. Because no matter it is for special interests or national interests, decision-makers always calculate, predict, and analyse risks-threats, challenges-opportunities, and short or long-term goals by using measurements in terms of reasoning and numbering theoretically. It can be true in case that the decision-makers have enough times, certain information, normal situation, and adequate resources during the process of analysis and decision-making without cognitive bias. Likewise, the rational is recognised as a process of reasoning analysis for alternatives theoretically, but in practice the situation is quite different. It could not reject psychological order of human being. Foreign policy decision makers actually decides on their decisions with remaining ambiguous information and tough emotional feeling as they are also taking into account with their roles, duties, and responsibilities. Especially during the crisis, after long intensive debate, there are too much tired, overworked, ambiguous, stressful, and including quickly situation evolving. “They want an answer and a decision in order to release them from the psychological stress they are under.” Therefore, there are number of scholars attempt to study on the psychological or cognitive biases (Jervis 1976; Steinbruner 1974; Rosati 2000; Heuer 1999, and Holsti 1976 & 2004). As consequence, the foreign policy decisions do not always make in the rational choices, but it is partly shaped by the psychological process, a set of beliefs, and a norm and culture of individual among the group of decision-making.

Seoul, Oct 16, 2014

Khov Ea Hai

[Note: The article is submitted for a purpose of study only, Professor Robertson Jeffrey Scott, Foreign Policy Analysis, KDI School of Public Policy and Management]


[1]&[2] Walton, Timothy, “Attempts to deal with the Challenges,” in the Challenges in Intelligence Analysis: Lessons from 1300 BCE to the Present, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, 2010, pp. 9-27

[3] Extracted from reading material, Sources from ASAN Institute for Public Policy; BBC, Reuters

[4] Tudor, Daniel, “Jeong-The Invisible Hug,” in Korea: the Impossible Country, Tuttle Publishing, Tokyo, Rutland, pp. 92-100

[5] Tudor, Daniel, “Cheomyon- Face,” in Korea: the Impossible Country, Tuttle Publishing, Tokyo, Rutland, pp.112-119

[6] Heuer, Richards, “Thinking about thinking” in Psychology of Intelligence Analysis, Center for the Study of Intelligence, 1999, pp.1-6

[7] Mintz, A and DeRouen, K, “Types of Decisions and Levels of Analysis in Foreign Policy Decision Making,” in Understanding Decision Foreign Policy Decision Making, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, 2010, pp. 2

[8] Extracted from reading material, Sources from ASAN Institute for Public Policy; BBC, Reuters

[9] “The United States Response to Piracy off the Coast of Somalia,” U.S. Department of State, Diplomacy in Action, accessed on Oct 14, 2014, available at (

[10]&[11]&[12] Extracted from reading material, Sources from ASAN Institute for Public Policy; BBC, Reuters

[13]Nicholson, Michael, “States, Nations and Governments,” in International Relations: A Concise Introduction, 2nd edition, Palgrave Macmillan, England, 2002, 16-33

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This entry was posted on April 1, 2016 by in International Relations and tagged .






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