South Korea-US Alliance in Focus

Online Conference | September 23 – October 6, 2021

The alliance between the ROK (Republic of Korea) and the United States has served as a linchpin of peace and security on the Korean Peninsula and in Northeast Asia for nearly seven decades. The alliance has been sustained, based on mutual trust and a shared belief of freedom, democracy, human rights, and the rule of law. In May 2021, ROK President Moon Jae-in and US President Joseph Biden reaffirmed the robustness of the ROK-U.S. alliance and their shared vision of making our alliance even stronger.

With the Biden Administration still calibrating its approach to the Korean peninsula and Northeast Asia, it is important to take stock of the current status of ROK-U.S relations, explore challenges and responses, and discuss future directions.

This conference is made possible through the generous support of the Chicago Consulate of the Republic of Korea and a Title VI grant from the US Department of Education.

Session One: Plans, Not Predictions: The US and Inter-Korean Relations

September 23, 2021, 11 am CT | Register Here

The collapse of North Korea has been predicted for decades, yet to all outward appearances the repressive state appears stable. Still, the issues raised by the potential reunification of Korea under any scenario are so fundamental to American and South Korean national interests that careful attention should be paid to what can be planned in advance to ensure stability on the Korean peninsula. Presenters will discuss what lessons can be learned from German Reunification, what plans are currently in place, and where more planning should be done.


  • Rüdiger Frank, Professor of East Asian Economy and Society, Head of the Department of East Asian Studies, University of Vienna
  • Bryan Port, Graduate Fellow, Clements Center for National Security, University of Texas–Austin
  • Kathleen Stephens, President and CEO, Korea Economic Institute (KEI), Former US Ambassador to the ROK
  • Moderator: David Fields (Associate director, CEAS, UW-Madison)

Session Two: Beyond Nuclear Weapons: Conventional Challenges to the South Korea-US Alliance

September 28, 2021, 7 pm CT | Register Here

North Korean nuclear weapons often dominate the discussion of challenges to the South Korea-US Alliance. But other challenges abound from North Korean conventional weapons, to regional tensions, to internal issues within the alliance itself such as cost-sharing and training space. Presenters will discuss these and other challenges facing the alliance now.


Session Three: South Korean Foreign Policy Innovation: The New Southern Policy and Beyond

October 6, 2021, 6-7:30 pm CT | Register Here 

This panel will examine South Korea’s foreign policy innovation under President Jae-in Moon, including (but not limited to) the New Southern Policy. With the growing importance of South Korea in terms of both economy and politics in the global world, South Korea’s foreign policy has made changes such as building relationships with Southeast Asian and South Asian countries. Panelists will discuss what changes South Korea has made with regard to foreign policy and how South Korea can keep its national interests given the rivalry between China and US as well as Japan’s ambitions to be a global police. Panelists and audience will have a chance to explore the directions of South Korea’s foreign policy.


  • Andrew Yeo, Professor of Politics and Director of Asian Studies, The Catholic University of America in Washington, D.C
  • Ji-young Lee, C. W. Lim and Korea Foundation Professor of Korean Studies, American University
  • Scott A. Snyder, Senior Fellow for Korea Studies, Director of the Program on U.S.-Korea Policy, Council on Foreign Relations
  • Moderator: Eunsook Jung (Assistant Dean, College of Letters and Science, UW-Madison)