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World sees Korea as technology powerhouse: survey

Citizens of 17 major nations regard South Korea as a technology powerhouse that ascended from the ashes of a devastating war, a survey showed Friday.

The Foreign Ministry released results of a worldwide survey on the image of the country. It commissioned Samjong KPMG LLC, an accounting and consulting house, to poll 6,000 people aged 18 or older in countries including Germany, India, Vietnam, Mexico, Turkey, Egypt and South Africa for one month from mid-October.

It excluded the U.S., China, Japan and Russia, citing ample previous studies.

The report came as Seoul steps up public diplomacy in line with its growing clout on the world stage and works to devise custom-tailored regional approaches.

In most countries, the participants picked technology and Samsung as the first things about South Korea that came to mind, followed by war, Psy and his hit song “Gangnam Style.”

The country was considered to be “state-of-the-art, creative and future-oriented” yet “conservative, rigid and old-fashioned.”

On the international stage, the country should serve as a bridge between advanced and developing nations through such initiatives as upholding world peace and the global order and knowledge transfer, the survey showed.

With the emergence of the so-called Korean Wave, about 25-30 percent of the respondents said they have experienced Korean films, music, TV dramas or food.

“South Korea may often be deemed to be sandwiched between China and Japan, but it needs to boost its soft power assets by developing a unique brand based on pop culture as a forte,” the report said.

On a five-point scale, the country’s image was rated at 3.03. Countries like Egypt, Germany and Poland displayed relatively negative impressions.

Nearly 30 percent of the respondents said they cannot easily distinguish between the two Koreas. The trend was particularly conspicuous in Egypt and South Africa, at 52.2 percent and 41.2 percent, respectively.

“There is an urgent need for image-decoupling strategies especially in the African region,” the report said.

“Overall, the country should strive to enhance its national image and make diplomatic efforts targeting the citizens in other countries.”

For Seoul to boost the effects of its public diplomacy, it should set some countries as regional centers and gradually expand outreach activities, the consulting firm said.

Key destinations could be Egypt in the Middle East and North Africa, South Africa in sub-Saharan Africa and Brazil in Latin America.

“It is difficult to employ differentiated strategies in all regions with limited resources,” it said.

“Regional public diplomacy strategies should be aligned with the country’s foreign policy direction and the goal of public diplomacy, while focusing on countries that could maximize the ripple effect of its public diplomacy activities.”

By Shin Hyon-hee (