Date of Award

Spring 5-31-2018

Level of Access Assigned by Author

Open-Access Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)


Global Policy


Kristin Vekasi

Second Committee Member

Seth Singleton

Third Committee Member

Kenneth Hillas


The concept of “middle power country” existed since several hundred years agointroduced by European philosophers and political scientists. The definition was proposed by many scholars and used by countries in many different status, one specific definition of “middle power” was not set until current days. The characteristics of a “middle power country” range from economic status, and political system, to patterns of diplomacy. By current broad definition, almost 80 percent of the countries in the world can fit into one or more categories of a “middle power country.”

The purpose of this paper is to depict the importance of middle power countries, and narrow down the definition and characteristics of them by analyzing the case study of South Korea and its diplomacy in Central Asia. It is necessary to narrow the definition of “middle power” to evaluate what constitutes a country as “middle power.” Middle power countries matter in the international relations as middle power countries hold pivotal positions when regional or world super power states make decisions. As diffusion of power becomes one of the global trends in the 21st century, clearer definitions of power structure of countries are needed to be redefined.

This thesis analyzes the nature of middle power countries and shared characteristics of them. Using variables such as diplomatic policy, security, foreign direct investment, and trade, I systematically analyze South Korea’s status as a middle power country. Using data from South Korean Ministry of Foreign Affairs reports and scholarly articles on middle power and Central Asia, I verify the relevance of studying the relationship between South Korea and Central Asian republics. This thesis concludes with the fact that middle power countries are defined by the four selected variables: diplomatic policy, security, foreign direct investment, and trade. The thesis also proves that South Korea performs qualifications of middle power country regardless of the regions and countries it deals with.