South Korea Has Its Sights Set on Africa and the Middle East

South Korea Has Its Sights Set on Africa and the Middle East
South Korean President Yoon Suk Yeol speaks during a joint press conference with Mauritanian President Mohamed Ould Ghazouani, chairperson of the African Union, at the Korea-Africa Summit in Goyang, South Korea (SIPA photo by Kim Jae-Hwan via AP Images).

South Korea held its first-ever Korea-Africa Summit in Seoul on June 4-5, hosting representatives from 48 African nations, including 25 heads of state. The gathering highlighted Seoul’s intention to set its gaze beyond the Asia-Pacific region, where it has traditionally focused its attention, to engage more actively with both Africa and the Middle East.

This shift underscores Seoul’s ambition to expand its geopolitical influence and forge deeper global partnerships, leveraging its soft power to boost its own technological advances.

That approach was on display at the Korea-Africa Summit, which saw agreements signed on trade, energy, critical minerals and various other industrial and economic fields. In what is often depicted as a “new scramble for Africa,” investments by China and wealthy regional actors like the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia, as well as security cooperation by Russia, receive most of the spotlight. However, as a middle power and relative newcomer to the continent, Seoul has focused on a strategy of building rapport with African nations to advance mutual interests.

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