Making A New Start Through ‘Public Diplomacy’

이다혜, 이상현l승인2016.09.06l수정2016.09.06 12:51l348호 1면

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 These days, terrorism is a regular feature in the news. In fact, post 9/11, the number of acts of terror committed by violent extremists has rapidly increased, reaching its climax over the last two years.

 There are costs associated with a hard-nosed response to this new global reality. If a government reacts with a show of strength, for instance, using its military force, there are huge costs such as heavy casualties, or even the loss of life of its citizens. And that is why so called, ‘soft-power’ response, otherwise known as public diplomacy, has gained interests and been propped up as a viable solution to end this reign of global terror.

 Public diplomacy, broadly speaking, is the communication with foreign nations in order to establish a dialogue designed to inform and influence one another, including exchanging cultures, histories, politics and societies in the hopes of forming a more global approach. Over time, the concept and definition has evolved and public diplomacy of 21st century is now dominated by fractal globalization, preemptive military invasion, and information and communication technologies that can shrink the time and distance between nations. Thus, public diplomacy is a popular way ’to win the hearts and minds of people’.

 On August 4, the government of the Republic of Korea passed into law the Public Diplomacy Act, in an attempt to bolster the nation’s diplomatic profile on the global stage. The main content of this act is the establishment of a Public Diplomacy Committee, the creation of general guidelines and execution plans, detail local government and private support, build and operate a management system and designate a lead department for public diplomacy; basically departments or organizations that are approved by the Minister of Foreign Affairs, such as the Korea Foundation (KF).

 This marks a giant step forward in the field of diplomacy for Korea. However, there are some drawbacks to the plans. As a latecomer to the field, a lack of established support organizations, budgets and manpower are still very big problems to solve. In spite of these adverse conditions, the government has come up with some solutions. The first is to gain cooperation to increase budgets for the expansion and development of new public services. The plan is to gain support for an increase in the budget for 2017 from 2 to 30 billion won. The second is to establish public-government cooperation to enhance efficient public diplomacy business. The third is to develop public and local government businesses that would invigorate the local economy and solve problems with youth unemployment. And finally, the plan is to promote the initiatives amongst the population. To improve the act, the government recognizes that it needs more ideas, and they want people to take an interest in this project and share their opinions about how to promote, strategize and implement necessary plans.

▲ Symposium for the Public Diplomacy Bill on August 4

 August 4 marked a new era in Korea with the announcement of the Public Diplomacy Bill. Welcoming the start of the new initiative, on August 3, the Dankook Herald (DKH) visited the government sponsored symposium for the Public Diplomacy Bill at the National Assembly.  The symposium included three separate sessions, one talking about the focus of the bill, then what we needed to do to improve our diplomatic efforts, and finally how the future will change through this new bill. There were speeches presented by Chung Se-kyun, the Chairman of the National Assembly who passed the bill, and Yun Byung-se, Minister of Foreign Affairs. There was also a briefing hosted by Choi Young-sa, the Foreign Affairs Cultural Diplomacy Director, whose department is mainly responsible for the policy enforcement and its content. The DKH learned many new things related to the Public Diplomacy Bill via the symposium.

 In the beginning of the symposium, the speakers talked about the subject of diplomacy.  In the past, the diplomatic role was predominately handled by respective governments, however today the role is shared by many groups including the press, Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs), interest groups, and ordinary citizens. In particular, relevant professionals are the most active agents of public diplomacy, playing a big role in creating a sympathetic bond with locals.

 For Koreans and foreigners alike, the most well-known form of public diplomacy in Korea is taking place through the ‘Korean wave’. So questions about the sustainability of the ‘Korean Wave’ as a form of public diplomacy couldn’t be ignored. One student asked if they thought the Korean Wave could be maintained. A professional responded saying that public diplomacy in fact started with the Korean Wave, but given that official policy remains mostly focused on reunification with the North, and this has proceeded sporadically, rather than systematically, our global diplomatic plans have so far stagnated. He finished by saying that this is a work in progress.

 Following that answer, the professional mentioned two examples of successful public diplomacy in Korea; the K-pop festival in Changwon and the Hanbok festival in Jeonju. Although the history of these festivals do not run in deeply for long terms, he is confident that as the years pass, the rate of visitors to these events will increase, thereby helping to vitalize the local economy.

 The Foreign Office forecasts that changes between domestic and foreign relations will be visible as a result of the new Public Diplomacy Bill. Until now, the government had made public diplomacy a second priority, and departments to take on the new responsibilities of the related duties didn’t exist. Any attempts to make policy changes merely bring chaos to related programs. However, through the Public Diplomacy Bill, cooperation between the lacking departments will be possible, and this is expected to result in a more systematic show of diplomacy.

 The positive effects of public diplomacy will take a long time to see any signs of benefits as it comes to realization through ‘soft-power’ instead of ‘hard-power’ activities such as military or even economic power, and there are concerns that foreigners may resist. However, the purpose of Public Diplomacy is ‘to win the opposite party’s favor’. If emotional empathy and mutual understanding takes place, a mature Public Diplomacy plan is possible.

  Passing the Public Diplomacy Act is expected to improve our nations image and value abroad. Through public diplomacy, we Koreans, can integrate with the global village, and successfully represent our country, to the world.


이다혜, 이상현  dankookherald@gmail.com
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