The Korean Peninsula – A Diplomatic Outlook

Written by: Douglas Barrett   |  Posted on: July 4th, 2023

The Korean Peninsula – A Diplomatic Outlook


We were fortunate enough to get our two Ambassadors to Korea, HE Colin Crooks based in Seoul and HE David Ellis who has been appointed to Pyongyang, to speak to the BKS membership on 15 June 2023. This is one of our most anticipated events of the year – an opportunity to hear first-hand from those on the Korean Peninsula and drew an audience of over 60 to SOAS.
Colin is an old Korea hand – a fluent Korean speaker, he earlier served in Seoul, was the Foreign Office senior policy adviser for Korea in London, and indeed was previously Ambassador in Pyongyang. Due to Covid restrictions imposed by the DPRK Government, David has yet to take up his appointment to Pyongyang. The event was co-chaired by our own Executive Chairman HE Martin Uden, former British Ambassador to Seoul and Dr Tat Yan Kong the author of “The Politics of Economic Reform in South Korea” and lecturer at SOAS.
We heard that the UK and the ROK share the same values. A new bilateral framework has been signed. Our foreign policies are aligned. We are working together on a new digital partnership and doing good work on both energy and net zero. President Yoon Suk Yeol visited the UK for the funeral of HM Queen Elizabeth II. Korea was now the 11th largest economy in the world and would soon join the UN Security Council. On the cultural front the David Hockney exhibition in Seoul was thrilling thousands.

The DPRK has been in lockdown for the past two years due to Covid restrictions. Some vaccines (probably Sinovac) had been distributed mostly in Pyongyang and around the Chinese border. It was therefore difficult to know what is going on in the Hermit Kingdom. It’s clear however that Chairman Kim has used the lockdown to implement a security crackdown making it even more difficult to leave the DPRK. There have been reports of food insecurity with people reported to be short of food. There was some hope that the DPRK may soon open up and allow diplomats back into the country.
There were many interesting questions – amongst which we found out that the DPRK bank rolls itself and leads the world in cyber-crime.


We are incredibly grateful to both Colin and David for sharing their time with us. Following the lecture there was time to network over wine and snacks. We look forward to next year’s meeting.

Leave a Comment