Creating a Naval Identity
This chapter explores how the ROKN has gone about its task of creating a new South Korean naval identity. It argues that the ROKN has looked to link itself to Korean and South Korean history to create an ideational narrative where the navy is the natural successor to great Korean historical figures. Its campaign includes public engagement to sell the ROKN to the general populace and leveraging a growing academic interest in seapower to persuade policymakers of the navy’s importance to South Korean security. However, this project is long-term and has been fraught with difficulties. The continental threat from North Korea and the sinking of the Cheonan forced the ROKN to suspend but not stop its naval identity-building efforts. A new opportunity has now presented itself as the strategic situation both in North Korea and in maritime Northeast Asia has provided the ROKN with a space to justify continued naval expansion. It remains to be seen if its efforts to foster a South Korean naval identity will be successful or if South Korea’s current embrace of an expanded naval role is merely a repetition of history and a temporary reaction to strategic circumstance.