Asan Plenum

A. Social Polarization in the United States: Searching for Civility

Multiple observers of American politics have noted the high degree of polarization in American society. Such polarization is occurring along multiple issues and categories, as evidenced by the rhetoric of the “99 Percent versus the 1 Percent”, the Tea Party and Occupy Movements, and the standoffs over issues such as health care, abortion, same-sex marriage and immigration. While Americans often praise their society’s tolerance for a diversity of views, that tolerance seems to be vanishing. This panel will explore where the “middle ground” in American politics is today and discuss explanations for its apparent shrinkage. Can good leadership overcome the intense partisanship that limits cooperation on national issues or should we expect polarization to remain a fixture in American politics?

B. American Foreign Policy in East Asia: Prospects for Shared Leadership?

The United States has played a central role in East Asian economic development and regional security since World War II. In part because of the success of the American role, the United States may be less central in the region today, as Asian economic miracles correlate with increasing trade and interdependence among countries in the region. China continues to grow its economic, diplomatic and military profile just as U.S. budgetary limitations have many concerned about the sustainability of American commitments. U.S. strategy promises continued engagement in East Asia, but what space does this allow for a rising China? Will American allies broaden their roles? Will middle-power diplomacy provide direction? How can regional and global institutions help coordinate and provide leadership?

C. American Foreign Policy towards the Korean Peninsula

Despite overlapping interests and policy priorities between South Korea and the United States, the allies face great uncertainty on the Korean Peninsula. The post-Kim Jong-il leadership in North Korea presents many potential challenges to peace and stability. In addition to the ongoing transition in Pyongyang, Washington and Seoul have their own changes in leadership to focus on in 2012. What are the main issues that South Korean domestic politics present for U.S. policy? How might the American elections affect U.S. foreign policy on the Korean Peninsula?