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South Korean nuclear program: genesis, development, regional repercussions


In 20th century the Republic of Korea achieved major economic growth, military and scientific goals, thus laying the groundwork for a nuclear program. At the same time, despite Seoul’s conflict with the North, which is perceived as a constant military threat, South Korea has not created a nuclear weapon, even though since the 1970s the country has been economically and technologically closer to a nuclear breakthrough than its northern counterpart and had similar reasons to pursue the nuclear option. Inter-Korean tensions, complex dynamics of the U.S.-South Korean military alliance functioning within the framework of Washington’s security system in Asia, South Korea’s desire to become less dependent on the U.S. and energy security factors dictated Seoul’s nuclear decisions. However, successes in developing the nuclear energy sphere, as well as economy and science in general, allowed South Korea to become a threshold state able to create a nuclear weapon with relative ease. The story of Seoul’s civil and military nuclear history is considered, nuclear potential South Korea is assessed, similarities and differences in the evolution of North and South Korean nuclear projects are traced.


North-East Asia; nuclear proliferation; nuclear security; Republic of Korea; U.S.-South Korean relations

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