Structural conditions of the world-system and foreign policy-making: A study of United States foreign policy toward Korea, 1901--1905

Date of Completion

January 1989


History, United States|Political Science, International Law and Relations




The United States was the first Western country to recognize the independence of Korea in 1882 and also became the first foreign nation to break diplomatic relations with Korea in 1905 after Japan succeeded in monopolizing its control over Korea by defeating Russia in the Russo-Japanese War of 1904-1905. The historical inquiry of this study focuses on explaining why the United States ended its relations with Korea in 1905. American foreign policy toward Korea illustrates the larger dynamics of international politics in East Asia, and it symbolizes the role of the United States--a newly emerging world power--in the Far Eastern affairs. Yet most scholars in diplomatic history have paid only limited attention to decision-making of United States Korea policy but have simply reiterated the argument, namely, that it was a product of President Theodore Roosevelt's balance of power approach. This study reexamines this assumption of rationality of Roosevelt's Korea policy.^ The reexamination employs a systematic analysis of underlying factors of foreign policy-making under a certain theoretical framework. The theoretical framework in this study is a synthesis of the international systems approach and the foreign policy approach, two of which have mutually exclusive theoretical assumptions developed within separated levels of analysis. For explaining a generalized foreign policy behavior of a nation, however, this study views the two levels of analysis as different sources of nation's external behavior rather than as a separate framework of reference. The conceptual relationship between the variables in both levels proposes systemic factors as independent variables and internal factors as intervening variables.^ American behavior toward Korea in 1905 is conceptualized as "conditional disengagement." To explain America's conditional disengagement policy, this study identifies certain structural conditions of the world-system as systemic factors, and the foreign policy-making of conditional disengagement is analyzed in three internal clusters: individual, bureaucratic/governmental, and societal factors. This study finds that the structural instability owing to structural transformation of the world-system was a systemic factor and the Roosevelt's belief-system based on unequal standards of civilization was a key intervening variable in the making of America's conditional disengagement policy toward Korea. ^