German Chancellor Olaf Scholz will make a whistle-stop half-day visit to South Korea today. Security, trade, and the Ukraine War
German Chancellor Olaf Scholz will make a whistle-stop half-day visit to South Korea today.
Security, trade, and the Ukraine War are on the agenda when Scholz meets with his South Korean counterpart, President Yoon Suk-yeol, after Scholz’s visit to the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ). The trip is the first visit by a German chancellor for the express purpose of bilateral meetings since Helmut Kohl visited in 1993.
Yoon will likely want Germany’s military to engage more in the Indo-Pacific region—especially in the South China Sea trade routes which are crucial to the South Korean economy. For Scholz, persuading Yoon to send lethal military aid—particularly munitions—to assist Ukraine’s defense, would be a major diplomatic win for Berlin. Thus far, a reluctant Yoon—careful not to antagonize Russia—has kept strictly to non-lethal aid. The prospects of either happening are low.
However, expect the symbolism of the trip to outweigh any concrete bilateral deals. Seoul holds Germany up as the perfect model for the economic and political benefits of peaceful reunification—the ultimate South Korean goal for the politically divided Korean peninsula. In this regard, Scholz’s visit to the DMZ will be held in high regard by Seoul and thus advance German soft power.