Sofiya Sayankina has completed her PhD at the GraduateSchool of International and Area Studies, Hankuk University of Foreign Studiesin Seoul, Republic of Korea, and is currently affiliated with tits Center forInternational Cooperation and Strategy. Her research focuses on cybersecurityand emerging technology policies.
The Semiconductor Dilemma: South Korea’s Strategy in the Chip War
One key player that is being affected by the chip war is South Korea, where chips account for almost 20% of the country’s exports, and in recent years have been a bright spot in an otherwise languid economy. But chip manufacturing plays an even bigger role in South Korea since the country’s technology supremacy is often used as a leverage in national security issues including diplomacy and defense cooperation, which creates a significant advantage for its middle-power status.
In the context of an accelerating race for dominance in the semiconductor industry, China's increasing assertiveness towards Taiwan and growing instances of the supply chain disruptions, this paper poses the following research questions: How is the chip war affecting South Korea's relations with other major chip manufacturing states? And how can South Korea leverage its status as a leading memory cheap producer in its attempts to mitigate the consequences of the chip war for its security and economy?
The paper focuses on Korea's complex relations with the US, Japan and China with regard to chip manufacturing. It provides an analysis of Korea's policies, economic incentives and diplomatic efforts undertaken in order to offset the damage inflicted on the semiconductor industry by the growing geopolitical tensions. Finally, conclusion will provide the discussion on further cooperation of like-minded states in the Indo-Pacific (e.g. the proposed Chip 4 Alliance) and the potential for policy alignment of South Korea with the US and Japan following the recent adoption of the K-Chips Act.