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PacNet #75 – South Korea and a New Nationalism in an Era of Strength and Prosperity

For the first time in nearly a decade, people watched as soldiers, tanks, and missiles rolled through the streets of central Seoul. For many observers, the purpose of the military parade was clear: a show of force meant to deter North Korea from engaging in military provocations. This surface reading is correct, but overlooks an important underlying trend: beyond the pomp of the parade a nationwide transformation is underway. Public opinion data suggests that a “new” nationalism is on the rise in South Korea. This is not a passing phase; it is the manifestation of a new national identity and a natural outgrowth of the country’s material development and newfound confidence. As Korea seeks a more prominent role in East Asian affairs, an effort encouraged by a supportive national identity, any understanding of the region will require taking Korea’s new nationalism into account.