Energy and environment
South Korea has very modest internal energy resources. This is why it is one of the main energy importers in the world. Of fundamental importance is oil, of which Korea is the sixth largest importer in the world, as well as the tenth absolute consumer. In 2013, oil consumption reached 2.2 million barrels per day. Most of it comes from the Persian Gulf region, mainly from Saudi Arabia. Korea’s heavy dependence on oil has led the government to push for diversification of supply by adopting a short-term and a long-term strategy. On the one hand, Korea has developed a strategic oil reserve, equal to approximately 90 days, managed by the Korean National Oil Corporation (Knoc): this reserve would be necessary in the event of sudden interruptions in supplies.
On the other hand, in a long-term strategy, Knoc itself – as well as other private companies – has begun to explore possible supply sites, probing the marine bed near the coast, still largely unexplored, and actively participating in some projects. pilot in various areas of the planet. Korea is also the world’s sixth largest by volume of crude oil refining: 2.8 million barrels per day are processed in the country’s six main plants.
In addition to oil, the country also imports significant quantities of liquefied natural gas, mainly from Qatar, and coal, mainly from Indonesia. According to indexdotcom, the growing demand for electricity is instead met through a combination of thermal, nuclear and hydroelectric energy. As a signatory to the Kyoto Protocol, South Korea has made a commitment to reduce carbon emissions by equipping itself with 12 new nuclear plants before 2015.
Given the huge overpopulation, air pollution has become a major problem in urban areas. For this reason, and to try in some way to escape the yoke of oil imports, the South Korean government decided in mid-2008 to encourage investments in renewable energy sources. The ministry of economy has stated that it intends to invest in technologies and projects relating to solar energy, wind and biofuels. Since the problem affects the whole of East Asia, meetings with China and Japan have been held every year since 1999 to discuss possible synergistic actions in the fight against smog. In spite of the climate of collaboration, however, the Seoul government accuses China of being the main source of air pollution.
Defense and security
The first problem for South Korean defense is North Korea. After the launch of the North Korean satellite in 2012, the beginning of the following year saw a resumption of tension in the area: Pyeongyang has taken positions and initiatives that are considered provocative by Japan and the United States. South Korea reacted by organizing joint military exercises with the US at sea and in the air, which served to reaffirm the US presence in the region and its support for South Korean independence. In terms of investments, the defense ministry plans to spend $ 26 billion over the next few years to increase the missile system, but the budget increase plan, presented to Parliament in July 2013, is still not well defined.
A second problem is the East China Sea and the contrasts with Japan for the Dokdo Islands (Liancourt) and with China for the Ieodo rock (Socotra). The first group of islets, whose sovereignty has long been a source of conflict with Tokyo, created more tensions in 2006 and caused two temporary retreats of ambassadors in 2008 and 2012. Both times, Japan proposed to appeal to the International Court of Justice, but South Korea refused, judging its rights on the islands inviolable. In 2012, South Korea’s President Lee Myung-bak visited the island causing a momentary diplomatic stalemate. South Korean claims are also very lively for Ieodo, a submerged rock group which, according to international law, should not be able to be claimed. However,
The United States, whose military contingent of 28,500 corresponds to 4.3% of the Korean forces, continues to be the main defense partner. This presence is not decisive, but is considered by the Korean government as a powerful deterrent against any attempt to change the balance built on the 38th parallel. Since 1978, the joint command of the forces of the Republic of Korea and the United States (Rok-Us Cfc) has assumed responsibility for the defense of the South Korean borders. The CFC, commanded by a US general and a South Korean deputy, holds operational control of the joint Korean and US troops. This form of collaboration should last until 2015. Seoul has already requested an extension of the American commitment but no confirmation has arrived from Washington.