Saturday, December 12, 2015

Youth-Senior Public Diplomatic Corps promoting ‘Friendly Korea’

DECEMBER 12, 2015 07:26

I visited on Nov 9 the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) while I was in Washington to participate an exchange program between Korean and American journalists. We were told to go to a conference room that was named after a Japanese donor. The interview with CSIS researchers took place in that conference room. During the conference, I could watch them having discussions on Korea-Japan and Korea-US relations. I could also hear Japanese diplomatic positions when they said, “Japan cannot take legal responsibilities for the sex slave issue,” and “Korea will be seen as trying to get closer to China” among other remarks. There, I could reaffirm Japanese diplomatic power.

Public diplomacy is a set of activities that aim to enhance the national brand power and ultimately to strengthen the nation’s influence in the international community. Public diplomacy focuses on ‘soft power’ such as culture and art rather than on ‘hard power’ like military and economy. In other words, public diplomacy is a way to spread a country’s ‘friendly influence’. That kind of diplomacy targets not only individuals but also universities, media, and non-government organizations.

The word ‘public diplomacy’ was first coined in 1965 when ‘Edward R. Murrow Center for Public Diplomacy’ was established by Edmund Gullion, who was a former US diplomat and professor at Tufts University. Public diplomacy meant a set of policies made to control the public in order to affect policies of opponent states under the cold war structure. In the 1990s, the importance public diplomacy was less emphasized as cold war was over. In 2001, it regained the spotlight as the number of religious and regional conflicts increased including the September 11 attacks. Another background of the re-emphasis is that ‘people power’ became important in line with proliferation of democracy and revolution of means of communication.

To keep up with the trend, Korea is also improving its public diplomacy. Korea declared the year 2010 as ‘the first year of public diplomacy’ and has encouraged embassies and legations abroad to promote public diplomacies customized to the local culture. Korea Foundation (KT) started working on building a ‘Korean network’ based on opinion readers in different countries and next leaders. There are also public diplomacy projects where citizens can participate such as Youth Public Diplomatic Corps and Senior Public Diplomatic Corps. The Korean Ministry of Foreign Affairs will push forward with public diplomacy projects in earnest, once ‘public diplomacy activation law’ passes the Parliament within this year. The budget for public diplomacy for next year is 14.3 billion won, 1 billion won more than this year’s budget.

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