Crisis management on the Korean peninsula : South Korea's crisis management towards North Korea within the context of the South Korean-U.S. alliance, 1968-1983.
This thesis examines South Korea's crisis management towards North Korea within the context of
the South Korea-U.S. alliance with particular emphasis on the three crises from 1968 to 1983: (1)
the 1968 Blue House raid / Pueblo incident; (2) the 1976 Panmunjom axe murder incident; and (3)
the 1983 Rangoon bombing incident.
For an analytical framework, five factors have been selected from a broad survey of theoretical and
case-study literature on crisis management as those that are most helpful in understanding the
particular crisis management processes and tasks that confronted the ROK: (1) crisis objectives; (2)
crisis management strategies; (3) images of North Korea's intentions and crisis dynamics; (4)
bargaining with the V.S.; and (5) characteristics of the crisis management system. Moreover, it
seeks to identify lessons learned from the management of each Korean crisis. Examining each case
within a common analytical framework, this study seeks to identify the central nature of South
Korea's dilemmas, efforts, and problems in crisis management towards North Korea within the
context of the ROK-V.S. alliance.
The main findings of this thesis are: (1) South Korean leaders experienced not only the
fundamental policy dilemma of crisis management towards North Korea, but also the dilemma of
bargaining with the V.S. within the context of the ROK-U.S. alliance; (2) South Korea limited both
its crisis objectives and the means to be employed. South Korean military moves to signal firm
resolution were largely co-ordinated with and made consistent with political objectives and
diplomatic actions; (3) South Korea's major crisis management strategies were designed to deter or
dissuade North Korea from escalating towards stronger action, preserve its reputation for firmness,
and increase North Korea's estimate of the net costs of escalation and war; (4) within the restraints
of credible military capabilities and limited operational control over its own armed forces, South
Korea tried to manipulate the V.S. in order to extract military and political support to create the
most favourable conditions for crisis management. However, the V.S. resolve and its willingness to
support South Korea could have contributed to escalation through South Korea's exploitation and
misjudgement; (5) the South Korean leaders' image of crisis dynamics directly affected their crisis
management behaviour, including their choices of crisis objectives and crisis management
strategies, and bargaining tactics with the V.S.; (6) chronic problems of crisis management within
the alliance context occurred as a result of asymmetries in the balance of interests and different
perceptions of threat and crisis. As for the implications of the ROK-V.S. joint crisis management
system, this system restrained South Korea from taking independent crisis action and limited South
Korea's choice of crisis options, but helped South Korea to lock V.S. forces into these Korean
crises and enabled it to use America's massive military power in an effort to strengthen its own and
the joint deterrent posture and thereby to coerce North Korea during crises; and (7) South Korea's
lack of a central crisis management organisation and independent intelligence collection capability
were critical problems in effective crisis management.
On the whole, within the context of the alliance, the capacity of South Korea to manage crises short
of war on the Korean peninsula depended as much on influencing the behaviour of the U.S. as it
did on controlling the behaviour of North Korea. South Korea has worked effectively with the U.S.
to build a strong alliance that has confronted North Korea and persuaded it to draw back from
crises. Moreover, it has been fully involved in the vital crisis management process of limiting risks
by moderating its own crisis objectives and crisis behaviour. It has also done this through the
process of making measured and balanced judgements.