Relations with China

South Korea Table of Contents

Nordpolitik has been viewed as less attractive in Beijing than in Moscow. Beijing's needs for Seoul in the 1980s were hardly matched with those of Moscow, particularly in economic terms. Still, because of complementary economic needs and geographic proximity, South Korea and China began to trade actively. The absence of any official relations, however, made it difficult to expand trade between Seoul and Beijing, because South Korea could not legally protect its citizens and business interests in China.

Beijing, in comparison with Moscow, has been politically closer to P'yongyang, which has slowed political improvements between Beijing and Seoul despite the increasing volume of trade between the two countries. Furthermore, China has attempted to mediate between North Korea and the United States and North Korea and Japan and also initiated and promoted tripartite talks--among P'yongyang, Seoul, and Washington.

Active South Korean-Chinese people-to-people contacts have been encouraged. Academics, journalists, and particularly families divided between South Korea and China were able to exchange visits freely in the late 1980s. Nearly 2 million ethnic Koreans, especially in the Yanbian Korean Autonomous Prefecture in China's Jilin Province, have interacted with South Koreans.

It has been difficult to determine what effect the political turmoil in China would have on Sino-Korean relations. After the military crackdown on demonstrators in Beijing in June 1989, P'yongyang predictably came out in support of Beijing's repressive actions. Seoul, on the other hand, produced a more muted response, which did not condone the actions in Tiananmen Square, but did not condemn them either. Trade between the two countries continued to increase.

More about the Government of South Korea.

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Source: U.S. Library of Congress