Why do government policymakers and peace activists often come to radically different conclusions on issues pertaining to peace and security? Drawing on insights from the literature on contentious politics and international relations theory, I argue that the politics of peace extend from different views regarding the nature of existing power relations and the legitimacy and moral purpose of the state. To test my argument, I examine the conflict between state and civil societal actors over the construction of a South Korean naval base and use discourse and content analysis to assess different interpretations regarding peace and security in relation to the naval base. Although the hope is to see David defeat Goliath, my findings are less sanguine: activists are not only physically overpowered by the state, but at the ideological level, their frames and discourse are frequently drowned out by a powerful discursive structure embedded in the logic of realism. This research has implications not only for national security policy in South Korea, but for international relations in Northeast Asia more broadly as middle powers position themselves between Beijing’s rise and Washington’s strategic rebalance to Asia.
Professor Andrew Yeo’s broad research interests lie at the intersection of international relations and comparative politics. His first book, Activists, Alliances, and Anti-U.S. Base Protests (Cambridge University Press, 2011) explores the politics of overseas military bases, focusing on the impact of security alliances on social movements and state response to domestic anti-base pressure. His other works have appeared in Comparative Politics, International Studies Quarterly, and Journal of East Asian Studies. His research and teaching interests include international relations theory, international security, overseas U.S. military presence, social movements and transnational politics, East Asia, and North Korea. He received his Ph.D. from Cornell University in 2008.