Nested insider-partial mediator: South Korea’s mediation in the US–DPRK crisis in 2017–2018

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Purpose: The purpose of this paper is to advance our understanding of international crisis mediation by introducing and examining the nested insider-partial mediator (NIPM) concept, a nuanced perspective on IPM behavior. This study challenges the traditional view of effective mediators as external, unbiased entities by delving into the behavior and contribution of mediators who are deeply embedded in the conflict environment, such as South Korea’s unique position in navigating the US–DPRK crisis in 2017–2018. By analyzing South Korea’s dual role as mediator and negotiator and its employment of both nondirective and directive mediation strategies, the paper demonstrates the potential effectiveness of NIPMs in managing complex biases and contributing to de-escalation in intense crisis scenarios. Design/methodology/approach: This paper uses a focused single-case study approach to analyze South Korea’s role as an NIPM. Using a process-tracing methodology, it examines how contextual factors such as relationships, interests and inherent biases influenced South Korea’s mediation strategies in this complex geopolitical scenario. Empirical evidence was retrieved from public sources, including official statements and press interviews, providing an empirical foundation for understanding NIPM behavior. This approach facilitates a detailed study of South Korea’s unique mediation role within the intricate dynamics of the Korean Peninsula conflict. Findings: The study’s findings illustrate the pivotal role NIPMs can play in complex international conflicts, underlining the significant potential of NIPMs in crisis prevention. The findings highlight South Korea’s adept navigation through intricate geopolitical dynamics, leveraging its unique insider position and established relationships with both the USA and North Korea. This behavior was instrumental in mitigating a potentially explosive situation, steering the crisis toward negotiation and de-escalation. The research underscores the effectiveness of the NIPM framework in understanding the nuanced behavior of mediators who are deeply integrated into multi-level conflicts, influenced by their connections, interests and inherent biases. Originality/value: This research not only broadens the theoretical framework of insider-partial mediation by introducing the concept of NIPM, but also has practical implications for policymakers and practitioners in leveraging regional mediation strategies for international crisis mitigation. The study underscores the importance of mediators’ deep-rooted connections, biases and vested interests in influencing their mediation tactics, thus offering a comprehensive understanding of the multifaceted nature of international mediation in complex geopolitical conflicts.

Original languageEnglish
JournalInternational Journal of Conflict Management
StateAccepted/In press - 2024

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2024, Emerald Publishing Limited.


  • Crisis
  • Mediation
  • Prenegotiation


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