Distorted Security Discourses


Seongwon Yoon

PhD defended at: 

University of Bradford


My research interests lie in policy-makers’ narratives of security, beginning with the following questions: Do policymakers’ narratives of security matter? Do they correspond with reality? If not, what needs to be done to moderate inflated security narratives? I chose the Korean nuclear crisis as a case for my study. In that regard, my doctoral thesis centres on South Korea’s securitisation process of the nuclear threat posed by North Korea between 2003 and 2013. The analytical results of my thesis are as follows: First, in contrast to the prevalent discourse in South Korea, progressive president’s articulation of North Korea’s nuclear issue was much more active and consistent, whereas conservative president’s level of articulation of the same issue dropped as time passed. Second, despite the quantitative difference between the two security actors’ speech acts on the nuclear issue, both security actors fell into the trap of securitisation dilemma: a situation in which a security actor has little options but to securitise an existential threat to a valued referent object, while at the same time the actor recognises that the other (enemy) is always in part self. In terms of originality and contribution, my thesis is one of the first attempts to apply securitisation theory to the nuclear issues on the Korean Peninsula. Regarding method, it combines securitisation theory with corpus-assisted discourse analysis, and thereby shows a possible way in which a theory based on post-positivist ontology and epistemology within the context of international relations (IR) can be tested in an empirical and systematic manner. In addition, the similarities and dissimilarities of the speech act pattern between the progressive (Roh Moo-hyun) and conservative (Lee Myung-bak) administrations in South Korea are examined practically.