ⓕ font-size

  • -2
  • -1
  • 0
  • +1
  • +2

Expanded BRICS and Korea's role for Global South

  • Facebook share button
  • Twitter share button
  • Kakao share button
  • Mail share button
  • Link share button
By Kim Sang-woo

At the BRICS summit in Johannesburg from Aug. 22-24, more than 20 countries formally applied to join the group. The new members are Argentina, Egypt, Ethiopia, Iran, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates. They will become full members from Jan. 1, 2024. With these new members, the BRICS+ has acquired a more Global South look.

Expanding BRICS was formally proposed by China during its presidency last year. Adding more members to a group comprising the world's most populous and large emerging markets can generate additional economic opportunities for both existing and new members. But China's proposal also generated concerns. A China-led expansion of BRICS cannot overlook the worries of Beijing forging a coalition of allies to counterbalance the U.S. and its partners.

Echoing their demand for a larger say in global affairs, the BRICS leaders' declaration repeatedly called for "greater representation of emerging markets and developing countries" in international institutions from the United Nations and the U.N. Security Council to the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank.

Criticizing the U.S. hegemony, Xi hailed the expansion as historic and "a new starting point for BRICS+ cooperation."

Moving forward, however, the group's expansion could be a double-edged sword. The inclusion of U.S. allies such as the UAE alongside countries ambivalent or opposed to the U.S. could frustrate efforts at deepening cooperation between member countries.

The challenges and opportunities presented by expansion will test the cohesiveness and effectiveness of BRICS+. Its ability to remain a credible force for reshaping global governance would depend on its capacity to reach a consensus among diverse members.

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi sees BRICS+ as a platform that can bring a new and more equitable perspective to global cooperation and problem-solving. The timing of the summit could not have been better for Modi. In between his state visit to the United States and India's G20 presidency, Modi has used the global stage to declare and reinforce India as the voice of the Global South and the new growth engine of the world.

For India, the outcome of the BRICS summit and the G20 presidency have become markers of its diplomatic success. India is in a position to act as a bridge between the West and East while championing the concerns of the Global South.

The absence of Chinese President Xi Jinping and Russian President Vladimir Putin at the G20 summit in New Delhi held between Sept. 9-10 was at first viewed as a direct snub to Modi and would ultimately overshadow India's presidency and its G20 objectives. But as the summit came to an end, it was clear that the exact opposite occurred.

Xi's decision not to attend was likely an attempt to discredit the G20 as a forum for international cooperation and demonstrate his opposition to the established world order. Setting Xi's G20 snub next to his appearance at the BRICS summit and the planning of the third Belt and Road Forum in October suggests that he intends to promote alternative and competing organizations that he can more easily manipulate or control to serve China's global interests.

However, Modi proved that he is becoming a counterweight to Xi in the developing world. While Xi rallies the developing world in support of China's anti-American agenda, Modi is seen offering an alternative vision of North-South relations that is focused on enhancing the voice of developing countries in global governance rather than confronting the West.

Xi turned out to be the biggest loser of the summit. By vacating his seat, he allowed Modi and U.S. President Joe Biden to promote their own views and influence. Rather than Xi's snub spoiling the summit the G20 went on without him.

The G20 summit proved its relevance and resilience this year. From World Bank reform to adding the African Union as a permanent member to climate commitments, the group made real progress.

Biden stepped into the void left by Xi and secured new infrastructure deals aimed at connecting India, the Middle East and Europe. The U.S. was even awarded the 2026 presidency, reportedly over China's objections.

In recent years, the term Global South has gained tremendous geopolitical currency. India has focused its efforts to place the Global South and its concerns at center stage working with "like-minded" partners, such as South Korea, at the G20 summit.

Regardless of South Korea's lack of an official endorsement of the term Global South, its commitment to realizing a prosperous global community through shared global development is an inclusive vision. South Korea's current foreign policy objective to become a global pivotal state is an expression of this goal.

Moreover, as a former aid recipient and today an advanced economy, it has become an exemplary global economic and social development model. Therefore, South Korea can play an important role in matters related to the Global South.

Together, South Korea and India can help create a more equitable global governance system by working to minimize differences; promoting the interests of the Global South; and advocating for reforms, particularly at multilateral forums.

As South Korea aspires to be a global pivotal state in the Indo-Pacific, India can be a key strategic partner providing new impetus to South Korea's geopolitical and economic goals. Both South Korea and India can play an important role based on a strong security alliance with the U.S. and shared democratic values in realizing sustainable development agenda through "minilateral" and multilateral frameworks.

South Korea's pursuance of a free, peaceful and prosperous Indo-Pacific is the culmination of a global pivotal state. Moreover, by leveraging its diplomatic acumen, economic prowess and technological advancements, South Korea can contribute to international problem-solving and bridge the gap between developed and developing nations.

Kim Sang-woo (, a former lawmaker, is chairman of the East Asia Cultural Project and a member of the board of directors at the Kim Dae-jung Peace Foundation.


Top 10 Stories

go top LETTER