Special contribution by CSIS Senior Vice President for Asia Victor Cha

The following is the full text of a special contribution by Victor Cha, senior vice president for Asia at the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) in Washington, and distinguished university professor at Georgetown University. He made the exclusive contribution to Yonhap News Agency on Saturday, after the leaders of the Group of Seven (G7) leading industrialized nations held a summit in Apulia, Italy, earlier this month. The G7 and Korea By Victor Cha The Group of Seven or G7 -- now comprised of the advanced industrialized economies of Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the United Kingdom, and the United States -- met in Italy this month. Unfortunately, South Korea was not there, even though President Yoon Suk Yeol attended the G7 summit in Hiroshima, Japan in 2023 at the invitation of Prime Minister Fumio Kishida. This is not because South Korea does not deserve to be present. It is because the one and only rule in the otherwise informal G7 club is that the annual host has sole deter mination over the agenda and the guest list. Despite the Biden administration's best efforts to lobby Italy to invite South Korea and Australia, Italy focused their guest invitations on the African Union due to their focus on stemming the tide of migration from that continent. But it is self-evident that South Korea should not only be invited to the G7, but also that it should become a permanent member. First, the G7 needs countries like Korea for its expanded agenda of global issues. If one peruses the last G7 leaders' summit statement, it identified several global priority issues for the members to address: the future of the Indo-Pacific, economic security, digital competitiveness, climate change, food security, sustainable development, disarmament and non-proliferation, labor, and Ukraine. South Korea is an important player with much to contribute towards all of these issues. A recent CSIS report that measured the performance of G7 members in all of these areas based on over 300 metrics of performance fo und that Korea outperforms several G7 members. South Korea is ranked above Italy and just below Japan in total performance. On digital competitiveness, Korea is ranked higher than all G7 members except the U.S. and U.K. And on Ukraine, South Korea last year was one of the largest suppliers of humanitarian assistance. If the G7 wants to lead in these issue-areas and help set the global rules and norms, it needs the cooperation of major players like Korea. Second, South Korea offers the combination of trustworthiness and effectiveness that G7 leaders prize as the hallmark of their group. When we brought almost three dozen former G7 point persons together to discuss expanded membership, they emphasized the exclusive and uniquely informal nature of their group. It's a place where leaders can have candid, unscripted conversations, and then have their countries act on those discussions. South Korea meets this bar. It is an advanced industrialized democracy, an OECD member, and is the first former aid recipient to become a member of the OECD's donor club. It, along with Australia, has fought with the free world in every war since the Korean War. In addition, it has proven itself to be a public goods provider as the host and convener of global summits on a wide range of critical issues including artificial intelligence (2024), Africa (2024), democracy (2024), IPEF (2023), Pacific-Island nations (2023), ODA (2023) and anti-corruption (2020). South Korea was the first non-G7 member to host the G20 summit in 2010. Next year, it will be the host of APEC. The G7 considers global health and building cooperative norms on advances in synthetic biology as a critical priority. South Korea was recently designated by the WHO as a Global Biomanufacturing Workforce Training Hub because of its world class training infrastructure and second-largest biopharmaceutical manufacturing capacity in the world. It has also been a leader in pandemic preparedness. Third, South Korea would add diversity to the G7 forum in numerous ways. The trad itional heavy European bias of the group has been a complaint of some U.S. G7 former sherpas. This may have been acceptable during the 1970s and 1980s when the group used to coordinate monetary policies. But today's G7 represents a smaller size of the world economy and global population than it did back then. In the 1990s, for example, the group represented 67 percent of world GDP whereas today it is only 43 percent. Moreover, its self-professed expanded mandate is not fulfillable merely by a club of Europeans. Finally, the inclusion of more views from Asia is critical to the future of the G7 if it is to be a leader in global affairs. The entirety of the vast region of Asia is currently represented by only one country, Japan. Our traditional institutions of global governance are floundering. The U.N. Security Council is stymied by Russian and Chinese vetoes. North Korea carries out provocations in defiance of ten existing U.N. Security Council resolutions and the body cannot even issues a statement let alone enforce sanctions. The G20 and WTO (now up to 164 members) are paralyzed by a lack of consensus. Meanwhile, two bloody wars in Ukraine and Gaza, cohesion among a bloc of autocratic powers, and the renewal of Cold war-like geopolitical rivalries with China have precipitated a world in crisis. At the same time, profound advances in the use of artificial intelligence, synthetic biology, resilient supply chains, and clean development demand new standards and norms, as well as sustained cooperative action. Having talked with a number of G7 sherpas from the U.S. and Europe, my sense is that views on this are split. The U.S., Canada, and the U.K. tend to favor Korea's membership (although there are some in all of these countries who do not), but France, Germany, and Italy are uncertain. The outspoken opponent is Japan. The reasons for this opposition are unclear. It stems not just from the desire to hold the sole seat from Asia, but also a sense of entitlement as historically, the region's sole great power. But thi s hardly seem reasonable given the size of Asia and Korea's economic development and increasing importance in global geopolitics and economic security. This would be the equivalent of France saying that it is entitled to represent all of the views of Europe. The G7 must transform from an old boys club of financiers chatting about monetary policy to a coalition of action-oriented, like-minded partners inspired to sustain the rules-based international order by addressing issues ranging from Ukraine to digital security. To do this, G7 leaders must consider serious reforms that enhance the group's capabilities, effectiveness, and legitimacy. Expanded membership to include Korea would be an important step in the right direction. Source: Yonhap News Agency