Abstract

In 1968, in response to lackluster US support for Republic of Korea (ROK) military modernization amid rising North Korean threats, the Park Chung Hee regime (1961–1979) instituted the policy of “self-reliant national defense,” or chaju kukpang, which was centered on building a national defense industry in the 1970s. The wide-ranging impact of this policy is examined, including the way that it reshaped the US-ROK alliance. Previous studies of ROK military modernization have focused largely on the dominating influences of US arms transfers and military aid, but these studies have not acknowledged the full extent to which South Korea’s proactive measures challenged US restrictions throughout the 1970s. The present study taps recently declassified sources from both the US and Korea and argues that distinct strategies of ROK arms production—including Park’s chaju kukpang initiatives, heavy and chemical industrialization (HCI), and mobilization of chaebŏl—along with US factors, elicited significant concessions in US policy on Korea. By examining particular forces of the ROK defense industry that impacted US-ROK relations, it is then further argued that past studies on the US-ROK relationship based on a patron-client model have failed to elucidate dialectics in the relationship that remained in constant flux throughout the 1970s, as the Park regime actively resisted dependency on US patronage for arms. Most significantly, by initiating independent military programs the ROK swayed US policy to favor Korea’s defense development and program for building a self-reliant national defense.

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Additional Information

ISSN
2331-4826
Print ISSN
1225-0201
Pages
pp. 185-216
Launched on MUSE
2018-01-24
Open Access
No
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