Columbia International Affairs Online: Working Papers

CIAO DATE: 09/2012

Dividing the Korean Peninsula: The Rhetoric of the George W. Bush Administration

Sarah Teo

August 2012

S.Rajaratnam School of International Studies


This paper suggests that an examination of the discourse and rhetoric of the George W. Bush administration offers a more comprehensive understanding of the developments that occurred during the years of South Korea’s Sunshine policy (1998-2008). Such an approach supplements the traditional neorealist perspective and helps to account for the direction of certain policies. The paper argues that in its inter-Korean discourse, the Bush administration framed South Korea as an ally and partner against North Korea, while imagining the North as part of the “axis of evil” and a threat to international security. Since the US occupies an essential role in inter-Korean affairs, its framing of North and South Korea as unalterable opposites impeded inter-Korean reconciliation under the Sunshine policy. Rhetoric from two events will illustrate this point – the 2001 US-South Korea summit and the 2004 US Presidential Elections campaign.