A Comparative Analysis of the Implementation of the KFS Agenda in South Korea and Sweden

SoME Gavobevis 2023

3 July 2023

A Comparative Analysis of the Implementation of the KFS Agenda in South Korea and Sweden

Interview with Suhyeon Lee, who recently took a master’s degree in Development Studies at Lund University. Suhyeon wrote her thesis on women, peace and the institutionalization of the security agenda in Sweden and South Korea.

Suhyeon began her academic career with a bachelor’s degree in international relations and international security from the Australian National University. This was followed by work in development cooperation in the Lao PDR and with policy research in South Korea and Sweden. When she wanted to deepen her academic perspectives with further studies in development, peace and gender, the choice fell on Sweden. And further to the research topic of comparing the differences in how South Korea and Sweden have chosen to implement UN Security Council Resolution 1325 on women, peace and security (WPS) in each country’s policy development. Both internally (institutional and national) and externally (regional, international, development cooperation). To get the perspective of two societies with different levels of equality.

“I think my background as a Korean, who has had an ongoing security issue related to the division between North and South, made me think about peace and equality in context, because both the security issue and lack of equality have been a challenge to discuss together in South Korea .”

The research showed that South Korea’s implementation of the WPG agenda is colored by the current security situation and the low level of gender equality in the country. The majority of women’s NGOs that have supported and participated in the policy process have focused on the domestic level. It affected the role of CSO activity and engagement at the international level, thereby limiting the scope of the Korean WPS agenda to the domestic level.

In contrast, Swedish civil society organizations with involvement in the WPS agenda have worked at both national and international levels, which has led to significant changes.

However, the Swedish WPS agenda also faces a challenge with the loss of political will under the new government. While the government facilitated the Swedish agenda as part of foreign policy, the women’s organizations initiated the South Korean agenda, leading to conflicting outcomes of the WPS agenda in Sweden and South Korea.

In particular, the effects of gender equality and awareness of this emerged as significant in implementation. Despite the WPS agenda and policy developments, South Korea has experienced limited results due to the lack of a gender perspective in the peace process (particularly women’s issues at the national level, such as the North-South divide) and the lack of women in high positions at the implementation level.

The political process in South Korea is still ongoing, but is being dramatically challenged by the new conservative regime, which has declared its anti-feminist perspective. In particular, its decision to abolish the Ministry of Equality and Family would significantly affect the further development and implementation of the WPS agenda. On the other hand, Sweden has also renounced the epithet “feminist foreign policy”, which has been a leading foreign policy direction in support of the WPS agenda. However, the existing public and private network to implement the agenda at national and international levels is likely to continue.

Suhyeon believes that the democratic level has benefited the discussion and political development of the WPS agenda in South Korea. But democracy also reflects public opinion, hidden rules and norms that do not necessarily reflect all values, such as gender equality. In that sense, she would agree that a high degree of democracy offers the potential for increased participation by women. But that doesn’t guarantee anything, because not all people stand up for equality and are aware of the issue. In this regard, it is crucial to facilitate the gender perspective and its importance so that the level of democracy can guarantee women’s participation.

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