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Forum on soft power as diplomacy engine

The government needs to establish a body dedicated to cultural diplomacy using the country’s soft power, a group of foreign affairs experts said Wednesday calling for a related law.

At the Korean Public Diplomacy Forum in Seoul, experts said the government had not made the most of the nation’s soft power.

“Though the country has seen remarkable economic and technological successes including hosting of the 1988 Olympics and the 2002 World Cup; semiconductor and automobile industries as well as hallyu, the Korean pop culture boom, it has made insufficient efforts to incorporate these achievements into a diplomatic scheme,” Prof. Lee Shi-wha of Korea University’s department of political science and international relations said.

At the meeting, “Public Diplomacy and Soft Power in East Asia,” Lee stressed that in the future, soft power would take over a substantial portion of diplomacy.

“Soft power is much more than just a nation’s cultural attractiveness and includes a country’s political values, ideals, norms and methods for carrying out skillful diplomacy,” he said.

He noted that Japan has aspired to translate its economic might into political and cultural influence in global affairs and has led Asia’s resurgence for decades.

Prof. Lee Sook-jong of Sung Kyun Kwan University said China is also gearing up to take the lead in public diplomacy using its soft power.

“The Chinese government has supported the establishment of Confucian schools at universities worldwide, which has become the base for the spreading of Chinese culture. It is also positioning itself as a source of a civilization and many other influential factors which may charm those not familiar with the country,” he said.

The professor noted that Korea has also started to notice the importance of soft power.

“Korea is striving to strengthen its soft power by hosting international events including G20 Seoul Summit and building a global network through the Korean Foundation and other agencies. Still, the government lacks understanding of its importance and leadership to execute the details,” he said.

“We need legislation of related rules and the establishment of pertinent organizations to place soft power at the forefront of public diplomacy,” he added.

By Bae Ji-sook (baejisook@heraldcorp.com)
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