Overview of Korea’s Arctic Policy Development

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  • November 2014

    In his Murmansk speech in 1987, Gorbachev proposed the Arctic as the shortest sea route linking Europe to the Far East and the Pacific Ocean, triggering a new perspective on the region.1 Since then, the 1991 Arctic Environmental Protection Strategy (AEPS), referred to as the Finnish Initiative, has been created as a multilateral, non-binding agreement among Arctic states to protect the environment by monitoring, assessment, emergency preparedness/response, and conservation of the Arctic zone. It has been called a major political accomplishment of the post-Cold War era.2 Based on the AEPS, eight Arctic states established the Arctic Council under the 1996 Ottawa Declaration for protection of the Arctic environment and people in the Arctic region. The Arctic Council played a crucial role as a pre-eminent intergovernmental body while maintaining its status as a non-binding high-level forum among member states. During the last 17 years, under the 1st round of the Arctic Council, it has successfully addressed the major agendas described in the founding declaration.

    Transformations in the Arctic have drawn enormous attention around the world and factors such as the price rise of resources, technological advances in shipbuilding and the shipping industry have made it easy to reach resources in the Arctic region. Physical changes have also generated more economic potential than geopolitical competitiveness. But this trend has included much debate on development and conservation, lack of capacity to address activities in the iced area, economic feasibility for business and international legitimate rights between Arctic states and non-Arctic states and so on. Challenges in the Arctic include territorial issues (i.e., maritime boundary, continental shelf and high seas) and global issues (i.e., climate change, marine/land environment and ecosystem, trans-boundary pollution, indigenous communities, resource development and sea route development). Moreover, these issues are strongly interconnected in various ways.