American political scientist Joseph S. Nye Jr. once said, “What is soft power? It is the ability to get what you want through attraction rather than coercion or payments. It arises from the attractiveness of a country’s culture, political ideals and policies.”
If there were verity in Nye’s assumption, the Korean government has wisely followed through on the celebrity scholar’s insight to magnify its soft power, drawing on a whole set of public diplomacy tools such as K-pop, Korean drama series, taekwondo, food, Korean studies and diplomatic outreach.
The Korea Foundation -- a public diplomacy organization under the Ministry of Foreign Affairs established in 1991 -- marked the launch of public diplomacy programs last week to help achieve its objective of promoting Korea worldwide.
Eliciting the participation of Korean citizens across age groups, the scheme will run 10 projects involving some 70 adults and various initiatives involving some 70 youths throughout this year.
A public diplomacy camp for youths will also be held, helping young students gain knowledge and a sense of public affairs.
Korean adults and youths pose at the launching event for this year’s public diplomacy programs organized by the Korea Foundation at the Ferrum Tower in Seoul on Friday. (Korea Foundation)
“Those projects you had devised will be showcased around the world, from Asia and Africa to the Americas and Europe, traveling across online and offline realms to make global citizens close friends of Korea,” said Korea Foundation Executive Vice President Kim Seong-in at the opening ceremony on Friday.
“Your words and actions determine the first impression of Korea for people worldwide. As public diplomats representing South Korea, I ask you to have magnanimity and tolerance toward other cultures and fulfill your roles and duties with confidence.”
As part of the 10 projects for adult public diplomats, which were chosen out of 138 entries, some initiatives will undertake activities such as fixing toys for children in disaster-stricken areas in Nepal using 3-D printers; teaching Korean contemporary dance to students in refugee camps; and operating pop-up stores selling Korean food and promoting them on social media, as well as running Korean cooking classes in Vietnam.
One project planned by a team of youth public diplomats will organize lectures and discussions with foreigners in Korea, covering humanities, innovation, history and foreign affairs.
“Diplomacy as we know it had traditionally meant negotiations between governments, the exclusive property of diplomats,” said Korean ambassador for public diplomacy, Park Enna, in a speech. “But in today’s world, people’s participation and role are becoming increasingly important, as democratic governance develops and stresses the cooperation between the state and people.”
Calling the trend the “democratization of diplomacy,” Park said people taking the initiative to be at the forefront of promoting Korea’s beauty and attractive assets was more effective than the government doing it.
The career diplomat, borrowing a theory of Nye, explained that public diplomacy -- centered on soft power -- comprised one of three pillars of foreign affairs, the other two being political diplomacy and economic diplomacy, both based on hard power. Public diplomacy entails the promotion of its culture, knowledge and policies, she noted.
By Joel Lee (firstname.lastname@example.org