International Security, Foreign Policy, and the Korean Peninsula

Course content

This course is designed for undergraduate students to understand security issues surrounding the Korean Peninsula. From the North Korean nuclear crisis to the US-South Korea alliance, the Far East is still under the impact of the Cold War. Moreover, the recent autocratization in China and the bumpy relations between South Korea and Japan make the situation more complicated in the region. This class will deal with these security issues.


There are two main objectives in this course. First, this course is intended to discuss the security issues in the region with major IR theories, including grand theories, such as realism, liberalism, and constructivism. Along with the discussions on the grand theories, we will also deal with much more compact IR theories, including the alliance theories, bargaining theories, the perspectives from the human rights, the democratic peace (the role of regime type), and the role of domestic politics and nationalism to better understand the security and foreign policy issues in the region. The second aim of the course is to aid students to understand the Korean Peninsula in relation to other countries. Accordingly, we will also discuss the histories and current situations of US-South 

Korea relations, Sino-Korean relations, and Japan-Korea relations. Overall, this course will deal with the Korean Peninsula with the major IR theories and its connections to other countries. 


Each lecture will be divided into three sub-lectures. In the first part of the lecture, major events in the Korean Peninsula regarding security and foreign policy will be discussed. I will provide background information including relevant history and current situations in the Korean Peninsula. Then, I will introduce major theoretical frames to students. Finally, students will discuss how those theories correctly or incorrectly predict those events.


Bachelor: 7,5 ECTS

Kandidat: 7,5 ECTS


Notice: It is only possible to enroll for one course having a 3-day compulsory written take-home assignment exam due to coincident exam periods.

Learning outcome


1. Students will gain knowledge on the significant historic events and current issues in the Korean Peninsula from the world politics perspective.

(1) The knowledge will include major security issues in the region.

(2) For more in-depth discussions concerning the security issues, students will grasp domestic political situations in South Korea and North Korea.

(3) For a more comprehensive understanding of the security issues in the region, students will gain knowledge on the major political development in neighboring countries such as China and Japan.

2. Students will gain a more in-depth understanding of the major IR theories by connecting those theories to real-world examples.


1. With class discussions and debates, students will build public speech skills.

2. Through class discussions, students will develop logical thinking skills.

3. Through close readings of the class materials, students will gain reading comprehension.

Competences: 1. By applying IR theories to real-world examples, students are expected to build a skill of how to interpret significant international security events in the world with theories they learned at school.

Every weekly class session will start with a lecture by the instructor. The instructor will present core questions, concepts, and relevant issues. Then, students will be divided into small groups to discuss the core topic. Finally, students will present their answers as a group.

Preliminary List


  • Jackson, Van. 2016. Rival Reputations: Coercion and Credibility in US-North Korea Relations. Cambridge University Press.
  • Cha, Victor. 2012. The Impossible State: North Korea, Past and Future. Random House.

Articles and book chapters:


  • Axelrod, Robert. 1984. "The Problem of Cooperation." Chapter 1 in The Evolution of Cooperation. New York: Basic Books.
  • Waltz, Kenneth. 1979. "Political Structures." and "Anarchic Orders and Balances of Power." Chapters 5 and 6 in Theory of International Politics. New York: McGraw Hill Publishing
  • Putnam, Robert D. 1988. "Diplomacy and Domestic Politics: The Logic of Two-Level Games." International Organization 42(3): 427-60.
  • Zheng, Zheng. 2008. "National Humiliation, History Education, and the Politics of Historical Memory: Patriotic Education Campaign

in China." International Studies Quarterly

52(4): 783-806.

  • Weiss, Jessica Chen. 2013. "Authoritarian Signaling, Nationalist Protest, and Mass Audiences in China." International Organization 67: 1-35.
  • Fearon, James D. 1995. "Rationalist Explanations for War." International Organization 49(3): 379-414.
  • Chiozza, Giacomo, and Hein Goemans. 2004. "International Conflict and the Tenure of Leaders: Is War Still Ex Post Inefficient?" American Journal of Political Science 48(3): 604-619.
  • Debs, Alexandre, and H.E. Goemans. 2010. "Regime Type, the Fate of Leaders, and War." American Political Science Review 104(3): 430-445.
  • Colgan, Jeff D., and Jessica L.P. Weeks. 2015. "Revolution, Personalist Dictatorships, and International Conflict." International Organization 69(1): 163-194.
  • Peksen, Dursun. 2009. "Better or worse? The effect of economic sanctions on human rights." Journal of Peace Research 46(1): 59-77.


      Korean Peninsula:

  • Hur, Aram. 2020. "Refugee Perceptions toward Democratic Citizenship: A Narrative Analysis of North Koreans." Comparative Politics 52(3): 473-493.
  • Yeo, Adrew, and Danielle Chubb. 2018. North Korean Human Rights. Cambridge University Press. Ch. 1. 
  • Bruce Cummings, The Korean War: a History (Modern Library, 2011), Ch. 1.
  • Hanhee Lee, "Analyzing the Political Survival Prospects of Kim Jong-un's North Korea Regime through the Framework of Selectorate Theory," Japanese Journal of Political Science (2018).
  • Moon, Chung‐in, and Chun‐fu Li. "Reactive Nationalism and South Korea's Foreign Policy on China and Japan: A Comparative Analysis." Pacific Focus 25.3 (2010): 331-355.
  • Sungjoo, H. (1980). South Korea and the United States: the alliance survives. Asian Survey, 20(11), 1075-1086.
  • Heo, U., & Roehrig, T. (2018). The Evolution of the South Korea–US Alliance. Cambridge University Press. Chapter 1.
  • Chung, C. P. (2003). Democratization in South Korea and inter-Korean relations. Pacific Affairs, 9-35.
  • Miller, N. L., & Narang, V. (2018). North Korea Defied the Theoretical Odds: What Can We Learn from its Successful Nuclearization?(February 2018). Texas National Security Review

Students must complete an introductory course in international relations before taking this class. Also, completing an introductory course in comparative politics is desirable but not required.

7,5 ECTS
Type of assessment
Written examination
Written assignment
Three-day compulsory written take-home assignment
Marking scale
7-point grading scale
Censorship form
No external censorship
Criteria for exam assessment


Criteria for exam assesment

  • Grade 12 is given for an outstanding performance: the student lives up to the course's goal description in an independent and convincing manner with no or few and minor shortcomings
  • Grade 7 is given for a good performance: the student is confidently able to live up to the goal description, albeit with several shortcomings
  • Grade 02 is given for an adequate performance: the minimum acceptable performance in which the student is only able to live up to the goal description in an insecure and incomplete manner.

Single subject courses (day)

  • Category
  • Hours
  • Class Instruction
  • 28
  • English
  • 28


Course number
7,5 ECTS
Programme level
Full Degree Master

1 semester

Department of Political Science, Study Council
Contracting department
  • Department of Political Science
Contracting faculty
  • Faculty of Social Sciences
Course Coordinator
  • Myunghee Lee   (4-7170696944726d6577326f7932686f)
Saved on the 29-10-2021

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