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Mistaken Attribution: The United States and Inter-Korean Relations

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The US-South Korea alliance has been one of the most successful relationships to be forged out of the Cold War era. Since the June 2000 inter-Korean summit, however, one area of consistent friction between the two countries has been over North-South relations. In this article, Victor Cha, associate professor of Government and D.S. Song-Korea Foundation Chair in the School of Foreign Service, Georgetown University, argues that a key dynamic at play is one of perception, involving errors of attribution. Allied complaints about the other are heard, but attempts to address these complaints are dismissed by the counterpart as having been determined by the situation rather than by volition—that is, disposition. This results in mutual frustration. Since the "axis of evil" appellation attached to North Korea by US president, George Bush, both sides have interpreted North Korean behavior as confirming their own convictions on how to proceed. Despite rhetoric to the contrary, the result has been a dichotomy in the way the two governments approach inter-Korean relations.

Document Type: Research Article


Publication date: 2002-11-01

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