Why Israel and South Korea Are Natural Allies https://mosaicmagazine.com/picks/israel-zionism/2024/02/why-israel-and-south-korea-are-natural-allies/

February 6, 2024 | Efraim Inbar and Jakob Rheins
About the author:

After World War II, both Israel and South Korea emerged as small, economically backward, newly created states with long histories threatened by large and powerful neighbors who sought their destruction. Since then, both have become advanced democracies with thriving economies, as well as important U.S. allies, even though the threats to their security have remained. They also share a common enemy in North Korea. Efraim Inbar and Jakob Rheins examine these similarities and how they shape relations between the two countries.

While Israel and South Korea are strong military powers, both tried to solve their ongoing regional conflicts peacefully at the end of the last century. Israel tried via the Oslo process, while South Korea practiced the Sunshine Policy toward North Korea. Interestingly, Israel, under Yitzhak Rabin, even tried to change North Korean behavior in the Middle East. These attempts failed. Israel and South Korea remained aware that they must have the military capabilities to deal with their respective conflicts should they intensify.

In 2014, South Korea’s former ambassador to Israel, Lee Gun-Tae, told the visiting Israeli president Reuven Rivlin: “South Korea is probably the only country that can understand Israel’s complicated situation.” Rivlin replied: “Until I came to Seoul, I thought there was only one miracle, Israel, and then I saw what you have done since the 1950s.” Rivlin was the first Israeli president to visit South Korea. He expressed his hope for closer cooperation and bilateral tourism. Indeed, nearly ten years later, the two countries are more intimate than ever.

Interestingly, what also brings the two countries together is the keen South Korean interest in Talmud study. There is widespread appreciation of Jewish intellectual achievements and Talmud—a fundamental Jewish text—has become a popular subject of study and a part of the curriculum in the South Korean education system.

Read more on Middle East Quarterly: https://www.meforum.org/65276/israel-and-south-korea-a-growing-partnership