APLN Vice Chair Moon Chung-in co-wrote a paper with Young-Deok Shin, arguing that South Korea will face daunting challenges in its quest for independent nuclear capabilities. To read the full version, please download the PDF file on the left. The original post can be accessed here.
The USA ended South Korea’s clandestine quest for an independent nuclear weapons program in the 1970s, resulting in the socialization of nuclear taboo in the minds of South Koreans. Since then, intensifying nuclear threats from North Korea, uncertain US security commitments, and a shifting domestic environment have shattered the nuclear taboo, while consolidating the new political foundation for pro-nuke forces favoring the acquisition of nuclear bombs. This paper aims to elucidate the evolving nature of public debates on South Korea’s nuclear path, unraveling internal and external forces propelling the quest for independent nuclear armament and analyzing its costs and consequences. Finally, the paper investigates the prospects for South Korea’s nuclear future. The authors argue that South Korea will face daunting challenges in its quest for independent nuclear capabilities. Nuclear fragility and high human costs, adverse security consequences, unbearable backlash on the South Korean economy and its civilian nuclear industry, and profound damages on Seoul’s international reputation, all indicate that the nuclear path will be a perilous one.