The emergence and evolution of International Relations studies in postcolonial South Korea

Jungmin Seo, Young Chul Cho

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Citations (Scopus)


This study investigates how International Relations (IR) as an academic discipline emerged and evolved in South Korea, focusing on the country's peculiar colonial and postcolonial experiences. In the process, it examines why South Korean IR has been so state-centric and positivist (American-centric), while also disclosing the ways in which international history has shaped the current state of IR in South Korea, institutionally and intellectually. It is argued that IR intellectuals in South Korea have largely reflected the political arrangement of their time, rather than demonstrate academic independence or leadership for its government and/or civil society, as they have navigated difficult power structures in world politics. Related to this, it reveals South Korean IR's twisted postcoloniality, which is the absence - or weakness - of non-Western Japanese colonial legacies in its knowledge production/system, while its embracing the West/America as an ideal and better model of modernity for South Korea's security and development. It also reveals that South Korean IR's recent quest for building a Korean School of IR to overcome its Western dependency appears to be in operation within a colonial mentality towards mainstream American IR.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)619-636
Number of pages18
JournalReview of International Studies
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - 2021 Dec 30

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
Copyright © 2021 The Author(s). Published by Cambridge University Press on behalf of the British International Studies Association.

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Sociology and Political Science
  • Political Science and International Relations


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