Academic article: Korea as Green Middle Power: Green Growth Strategic Action in the Field of Global Environmental Governance


Lau Blaxekjær, Department of History and Social Sciences, University of the Faroe Islands, Email:

(Author's pre-print version. Article published in International Relations of the Asia-Pacific. November 29, 2015, pp. 1-34.


In the field of global environmental governance South Korea stands out. Since 2005 it has
been the initiator and central node in a majority of international networks and organizations
promoting green growth. Based on new theoretical approaches and empirical analysis, this
article highlights the significance of Korea’s middle power diplomacy in relation to green
growth governance, establishing it as a “Green Middle Power.” Middle power analyses of
Korea usually portray it as a regionally constrained and secondary actor in global governance.
This article supplements middle power theory’s behavioral approach with a strategic action
approach inspired by Bourdieu’s practice theory, which it applies to an original database of
more than 1,000 sources, 18 interviews and 10 participatory observations. The article argues
that Korea has become a primary actor in global environmental governance by demonstrating
how Korea has established a sub-field of green growth governance through a wide range of
strategic moves.

Key words: South Korea, middle power, green growth, strategic action, global environmental governance

Lau Blaxekjær