Politics, Strategy and Naval Modernisation
This chapter examines how the ROKN took advantage of changed political circumstances following the democratisation of South Korea to win presidential support for blue-water modernisation. It starts with the Presidency of Kim Young-sam who took office in 1993 and was the first elected civilian head of state in over 30 years. The chapter then proceeds to examine the relationship between the three subsequent administrations and ROKN modernisation. By covering a period of 20 years, the chapter demonstrates that internal naval goals for blue-water modernisation coincided with a political environment that was increasingly open to such concepts. Following the election of Kim Young-sam, successive administrations sought to expand South Korea’s security agenda, thereby providing the ROKN with a window to modify its operational posture. However, the nature of the political system in South Korea combined with the threat from North Korea exposes the ROKN to sudden shifts in administration policy. When conservative President Lee Myung-bak took office, the ROKN’s drive for blue-water operations fell afoul of political reprioritisation. The chapter concludes by arguing that political support for the ROKN blue-water modernisation is still not a given but has been helped by a strategic environment which can now justify such expenditure.