South Korea and NATO: from unlikely companions to key partners

Bence Nemeth*, Saeme Kim

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Citation (Scopus)


Relations between South Korea and NATO have been deepening at a striking pace recently. Yoon Suk Yeol became the first South Korean president to attend a NATO Summit in 2022 and in the same year, Seoul opened its diplomatic mission to NATO in Brussels. South Korea also became the first east Asian country to join a NATO Centre of Excellence, and started increased consultations with NATO’s military staffs. There is a gap in the literature on South Korea-NATO relations which this article aims to fill as it examines the reasons behind the rapidly deepening relations between South Korea and NATO in recent years. To understand the dynamics that triggered the rapid development of South Korea–NATO relations, this article applies Bence Nemeth’s theory on defence cooperation which focuses on the interplay of three structural and two situational factors. We argue that the constellation of these factors operating together led the two sides to deepen cooperation organically over almost two decades. Path-dependent processes accrued through prior experiences of collaboration and institutional ‘stickiness’, aided by the positive rapport between leaders in office, allowed the two sides to deepen cooperation when the external environment required it following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)609-629
Number of pages21
JournalInternational Affairs
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 4 Mar 2024


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