I. Devising a Conceptual Typology of Public Diplomacy
II. Overview of South Korean Public Diplomacy 2018-2022
Ⅲ. Typological Analysis of Central Administration’s Public Diplomacy Programs
IV. Policy Considerations
Public diplomacy is widely understood as non-traditional diplomatic practices to inform, persuade, influence, and engage targeted foreign publics eventually to build foreign support for achieving a country’s foreign policy goals and advancing national interests. This state-centered and self-centric understanding of public diplomacy originates from the primary political dynamics of the 19th and 20th centuries shaped by the construction and evolution of nation-states.
The old notion of public diplomacy, however, appears to be unfit and antiquated for the 21st century’s new realities dominating world politics and communication dynamics. With great powers fiercely vying for predominance in the realms of hard power and soft power, public diplomacy, as a toolkit for their geopolitical statecraft, has made inroads into the central arena of their contention. Great power competition critically deepens global conflict and confrontation, while diminishing the political space for international cooperation and collaboration. The new dynamics of digital communications of this century, on the other hand, render public diplomacy focusing on the unilateral dissemination of self-centric information obsolescent. Today’s contexts of world politics and global communications urge us to revisit the conventional meanings and understandings of public diplomacy, as well as its role in the international society.
Against this backdrop, this paper aims to draw policy implications by raising the following questions: what are and should be the roles of public diplomacy in today’s global context? Is public diplomacy nothing but an instrument for advancing a country’s parochial national interests, thereby deepening global conflict and confrontation? What should be the role of public diplomacy of non-great powers including South Korea? In what directions should the South Korean government steer its public diplomacy?
This paper introduces two perspectives on public diplomacy to formulate a conceptual typology to classify diverse public diplomacy programs. After a brief overview of South Korea’s public diplomacy during the five-year period of 2018 and 2022, we classify public diplomacy programs rolled out by the country’s central administrative agencies along the conceptual typological framework. Finally, to flesh out feasible policy directions, the pressing issues at hand and challenging tasks ahead of South Korean public diplomacy will be discussed.
I. Devising a Conceptual Typology of Public Diplomacy
There could be two complementary perspectives on public diplomacy. The instrumental perspective, which is a rather conventional view, understands public diplomacy as non-traditional diplomatic activities orchestrated to inform, persuade, influence, and engage foreign publics eventually to build foreign support for achieving a country’s foreign policy goals and advancing national interests. The primary constituents of the public diplomacy toolkit aim to help a government induce targeted sectors of foreign opinion to craft and implement policies favorable to its national interests and strategic aims to raise its global profile and reputation. This view postulates that public diplomacy focuses on the content of messages to be disseminated and the projection of desirable national images and brands.
The identity perspective, on the other hand, underscores the aspect of public diplomacy as communicative and discursive practices engineered to earn recognition of a political collective’s identity, or some specific elements constituting the identity. As the subjective identity of self is not received in the international society as initially conceived by the self, states and non-state actors engage in the recognition-seeking process through material and discursive practices, the latter of which is the central area of public diplomacy. When one’s recognitive practices earn empathy and recognition through interactions with others, the subjective self-identity eventually gains currency as “recognized identity” in the international society. A particular emphasis in the identity perspective goes onto the process of nurturing intersubjective meanings, namely, shared understandings and meanings, with others on specific phenomena, objects and issues, such as climate change, peace, security, and nuclear non-proliferation, as well as identities. By doing this, public diplomacy is expected to facilitate the social construction and elaboration of inter-state and international relations.
When the instrumental and identity perspectives are combined, we could hammer out an analytical typological framework, which consists of four ideal types of public diplomacy, as shown in [Figure 1].
[Figure 1] Conjunction of the two perspectives on public diplomacy
The horizontal axis of [Figure 1] indicates the spectrum of the instrumental perspective all the way from unilateral information dissemination to medium- and longer-term relation-building via persuasion and engagement. In contrast, the vertical one represents the spectrum of the identity perspective ranging from a narrowly defined subjective identity to a transcendent one as one expands the boundaries of identity by nurturing shared meanings and understandings with its counterparts, thereby reconstituting one’s subjective identity.
Monologic public diplomacy in Quadrant I represents a focus on self-centered unilateral information delivery, while Quadrant II, dialogic public diplomacy, is an approach underscoring relation-building with foreign publics or counterparts through dialogues and exchanges, however asymmetrical they might be. As we move down along the vertical axis, we expand the perimeters of our identities. And Quadrant III shows transnational public advocacy, under which an emphasis is placed on sharing and disseminating non-self-centric information as in such cases of international campaigns on pandemics and climate change. Co-constitutive public diplomacy in Quadrant IV represents an approach, in which we are prepared to compromise our own subjective, self-centric identity and willing to construct a community on the basis of shared meanings, common interests, and common identity. Each approach is a conceptual ideal type, while in reality, different types are simultaneously used in combination.
II. Overview of South Korean Public Diplomacy 2018-2022
From 2018 to 2022, with some yearly variations, South Korea’s 19 central administrative agencies including the Korea Foundation, together with 17 metropolitan local governments, participated in the annual public diplomacy implementation plan, which commenced for the first time in 2018 on the basis of the Public Diplomacy Act and The ROK’s First Public Diplomacy Masterplan 2017-2021, as shown in [Table 1].
[Figures 2 – 5] show the numbers and budgets for the public diplomacy programs planned and implemented by central administrative agencies and local governments. While the number of local-government programs (1,928) more than doubles that of the central government (937), the latter’s budgets (1,710 billion Korean WON) quadruple those of local governments (454 billion Korean WON).
[Figure 2] Numbers of public diplomacy programs 2018-2022
[Figure 3] Shares of five-year public diplomacy programs: central administrative agencies versus metropolitan local governments
[Figure 4] Public diplomacy budgets (by year)
[100million Korean WON]
[Figure 5] Shares of five-year budgets: central administrative agencies versus metropolitan local governments
The distribution of five-year public diplomacy budgets for both levels of government is shown in [Figure 6]. Cultural diplomacy takes up 53% of the total budget, while knowledge diplomacy and policy advocacy take up 28% and 13%, respectively. The share of policy advocacy, however, has consistently increased from 2.2% in 2017 to 20% in 2021 in terms of budgets as shown in [Figure 7], and from 7.9% in 2018 to 27%, or 135 programs in 2022 in terms of program numbers.
[Figure 6] Distribution of five-year budgets between subfields
Ⅲ. Typological Analysis of Central Administration’s Public Diplomacy Programs
[Figure 7] Budgets trends of public diplomacy subfields
This paper classified public diplomacy programs of central administrative agencies during the five-year period of 2018 and 2022 listed in The ROK Annual Public Diplomacy Implementation Plan, employing the typological framework in [Figure 1] and according to indicators for each type as shown in [Table 2]. 937 programs of central administrative agencies are distributed along the four types as shown in [Figures 8 and 9]. Self-centric programs that combine types I(40% or 374 programs) and II(42% or 396 programs) amount to 770 programs, occupying 82% of the total programs, while types III and IV that go beyond self-centeredness account for 7%, or 59 programs, of which co-constitutive programs are mere 1%, or 6 programs.
[Figure 8] Distribution of public diplomacy programs of central administrative agencies 2018-2022 (by year)
[Figure 9] Distribution of public diplomacy programs of central administrative agencies 2018-2022 (by year)
Type I programs concentrate on self-centric information delivery and dissemination and include Korean language/studies promotion, introduction of Korea (such as K-Pop, Korean foods, Korea Week, Korea Center, etc.), rectifying factual errors on Korea and expanding Korea-related descriptions in foreign textbooks, public relations on Korean tourism, Korean policy briefing events – for foreign diplomats, foreign correspondents, etc. – , and exhibition events for enhancing Korea’s national image. Programs for overseas Koreans also heavily lean towards introducing Korea through those programs of Korean language and culture promotion and Korean national identity enhancement.
Numerous countries these days view diasporas and expatriate communities as both important target audiences and human resources for the mother country’s public diplomacy. Israel, for example, utilizes overseas Jewish communities as a crucial human capital as vividly demonstrated by the Israel lobby’s far-reaching impact in the U.S. In contrast, China steers its policy efforts to legitimate the Communist Party’s rule in China for overseas Chinese as its target audience while simultaneously employing them as an instrument for enhancing its influence in host countries. And the United Front Work Department under the Communist Party Central Committee spearheads relevant efforts. Russia also utilizes broadly defined overseas Russians as a rationale and instrument for securing its spheres of influence.
Overseas diasporas, with their liminal identities or potentially divided loyalties between the two cultures of the mother and host countries, occupy a crucial position in breeding and nurturing intersubjective meanings and understandings of specific issues and identities between the two countries. They could function as an intellectual and cultural bridge between two different cultures. Considering this peculiar potential of overseas Koreans, they should deserve more diverse approaches that go beyond self-centric monologues.
Type II consists of a broad array of personnel and cultural exchanges involving youth and students, scholars, experts, and public servant exchanges, and sports exchanges, and bilateral and multilateral conferences and seminars. These programs are not arranged as a one-off event; many of them are operated on a regular basis with a greater focus on interacting and building relations with foreign counterparts, which stands in contrast to Type I programs. It is also true, however, that a considerable number of Type II programs still foster self-centeredness. For example, many of South Korea’s policy advocacy programs lay stress on communicating the country’s policy positions vis-à-vis foreign participants and presenting convincing arguments to support Korea’s stance. Policy research grant programs also tend to incentivize Korea-related research.
While many central administrative agencies are running their own youth exchange programs, there is still room for improvement. Selecting the next generation of youth leaders as a target audience could help these agencies improve and upgrade their programs. It is worth considering establishing youth leaders program for every diplomatically important country and/or region, and maintaining alumni networks. And to improve the programs’ content quality, regional and global issues should be added to the introduction of Korea. For this purpose, a modular approach would be worth considering, under which some issue-oriented modules are employed across different youth exchange programs. The Korea National Diplomacy Academy, for instance, has been employing this type of modular approach to implement its East Asian Diplomacy Program launched in 2020 for junior diplomats from across the globe. Such an approach will serve as a bridge linking Type II with Type III programs.
Type III includes knowledge-sharing programs and educational and training programs implemented within the framework of international development cooperation. A series of gender-related programs administered by the Ministry of Gender Equality and Family are representative of Type III programs. TRUST Campaign initiated by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in the first half of 2020 when South Korea’s initial responses to COVID-19 were relatively successful, although not included in The Annual Public Diplomacy Implementation Plan, is a good example of transnational public advocacy centered on global issues. As a way of further developing Type III programs, we need to pay particular attention to directly linking public diplomacy and official development assistance in such realms as cultural ODA and ICT ODA.
Central administrative agencies’ public diplomacy efforts fall short in Type IV, with the exception of Building and Managing Asia Arts Community (The Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism, 2018-2019) and Global Public Diplomacy Network (GPDNet by the Korea Foundation, 2018-2021). GPDNet is an association of public diplomacy agencies of middle power countries. It was launched by the Korea Foundation in 2014 with the aim of constructing a global public diplomacy network of non-great powers. The Korea Foundation assumed the first chairmanship, which was passed on to Türkiye’s Yunus Emre Institute in 2016 and Qatar’s Cultural Village Foundation in 2019. GPDNet has facilitated the exchange of public diplomacy programs among its members and a set of collaborative programs such as photo exhibitions, Tales for Everyone Festival, and Arts Exchanges. It now faces a challenging task of setting common agendas and playing a constructive role as a viable network of public diplomacy agencies of non-great power countries.
Since the early 1990s, the Society for East Sea, a non-profit South Korean organization, has initiated and led an international campaign to promote the parallel use of “East Sea” and “Sea of Japan” to refer to the waters between Korea and Japan. In 2000, only 2.8 percent of world maps used both labels in parallel, but as of 2009, the rate increased to 28 percent, and about 40 percent of world maps now use both terms according to the latest estimates. Professor Ju Sungjae of Kyung Hee University, the President of the Society, notes that a growing tendency to view geographical names through the lens of cultural legacies has shifted the way we perceive geographical names as well as our understanding of the significance of naming geographical features. The Society’s promotion of the parallel use of “East Sea” and “Sea of Japan” is an effort to create commonly acceptable meanings and understandings of a physical object that constitutes an element of physical identities of Korea and Japan. In this sense, this is a campaign that, in a way, falls under the category of co-constitutive public diplomacy.
Also worthy of note is the possibility of connecting a vast range of offerings of South Korean pop culture like K-Pop with transnational public diplomacy. For example, the ARMY, the world-renowned K-Pop band BTS’s transnational fan club, is itself a transnational network based on a common identity centering on BTS, and the group’s signature message: “Love Yourself.” “One In an Army,” a non-profit charity organization established and run by 28 ARMY groups across the globe in 2018 with an aim to exert “good influence” on many parts of the world, is spreading anti-racial discrimination messages in tandem with the Black Lives Matter movement and organizing fundraising campaigns to raise awareness for their cause. “ARMY Help the Planet” started as a Brazilian ARMY group and later became an environmental organization to protect Brazilian rainforests and support pro-environmental politicians. “K-Pop for Planet,” a platform of K-Pop fans for climate action, launches an international campaign on climate change. As these cases illustrate, K-Pop, a cultural phenomenon, has the potential to develop into a transnational public advocacy movement and further evolve into a transnational community of people who share common interests and identities with sufficient power and resources to forge and spread new international norms.
In this light, it is now time to think anew about the linkage between the Korean Wave and public diplomacy – that is, the issue of translating Korean pop culture’s attractions and K-pop fans’ emotional attachments to performers into Types III and IV public diplomacy. BTS, for instance, may have at least three different types of public diplomacy effects. The first is the BTS members’ individual charms that create emotional attachments. South Korea could indirectly benefit from this so-called “origins-of-nation effect.” Second, BTS may generate more direct public diplomacy effects when, for example, the group works as the cultural or policy ambassador of South Korea. Third, BTS could develop transnational empathy and trust by performing or delivering a speech at global platforms like the UN to weigh in on global issues like climate change and SDGs. South Korea could enjoy benefits in this case as well, in the form of a country-of-origin effect.
This implies that BTS could be seen as a transnational soft power asset. In this case, the subject of soft power is not so much the state, but a non-state actor like BTS. In a new global context, we need to expand our horizon of soft power by shifting our focus from state-centered towards transnational and non-state actors’ dimensions. Seen from an extended conception of soft power, K-Pop, and the Korean Wave at large, could have the potential to go beyond state-centric, self-promoting public diplomacy.
IV. Policy Considerations
With numerous opportunities and challenges thrown around in today’s contexts of world politics and global communications replete with incessant geopolitical realignments, what issues and challenging tasks should top South Korea’s priority list in the realm of public diplomacy? [Table 3] sums up the critical issues and challenges ahead.
The following are three considerations needed to flesh out the directions of South Korean public diplomacy. First, Types III and IV of public diplomacy deserve greater attention. As great power competition prevails in the global political context, the international community needs to bring its efforts to bear on establishing transnational communities based on inclusionary and collaborative identities. For South Korea, facing numerous imminent global issues today, it is advised to steer its public diplomacy in the direction of Types III and IV by expanding the perimeters of its own identity and towards normative public diplomacy. Normative public diplomacy is aimed at creating, circulating, and institutionalizing international norms that reflect intersubjective meanings on global issues to chart a way forward in forging social inter-state relations. This is critical as robust international norms could regulate and constrain even menacing or conflictual behaviors of great powers.
Second, amidst the increasingly confrontational values bifurcation between liberalism under the aegis of the U.S. and Western Europe and anti-liberalism with China and Russia in the advance guard, South Korea needs to reconsider and even redefine the conventional notion and role of soft power with prudence. South Korea’s specific roles in the realm of public diplomacy should include striking a balance of soft power against the binary values confrontation. For this purpose, it is critical to coalesce with states and non-state actors alike, based on shared values, to create and foster ‘collective soft power’ as a values buffer, or ‘values balancer’ between the contending values.
To navigate the current reality shaped by ‘values blocization,’ South Korea needs to underscore peace advocacy as one of the main prongs of its normative public diplomacy. Peace public diplomacy could be defined as “co-constitutive policy advocacy to establish, disseminate, internalize and institutionalize shared meanings of peace and security through discursive communicative public diplomacy programs that reflect the value and norm of ‘positive peace,’ and eventually to realize a peace-security community of practice across the globe.”
The third thread to be woven into South Korea’s strategic tapestry in the realm of public diplomacy is ramping up efforts at digital public diplomacy to unleash its fullest potential. To that end, South Korea should boost investment in digital diplomatic infrastructure and human resources to develop public diplomacy programs, actively employing digital technologies and media. It is quite common that digital media including social media are still widely employed in public diplomacy to deliver self-centric information as an instrument of public relations. But the key feature of wireless communication is not mobility but perpetual connectivity. In digital networks, discourses are generated, diffused, fought over, internalized, and ultimately embodied in human action, in the socialized communication realm constructed around local-global networks of multi-modal, digital communication, including the media and the Internet. Thus, power in the network society is communication power.
In today’s fast-paced world, digital technologies play a crucial role in shaping the way people rethink their identities and the way social and political actors reconfigure ideas, strategies, and actions. Representing individual and collective identities and interests by nurturing intersubjective identities and empathy manifests the real power of digital media. Therefore, South Korea could write a preface to successful transnational public advocacy and co-constitutive type of public diplomacy by formulating and implementing level-headed strategies in advancing digital diplomacy with a carefully selected toolkit of evolving digital technologies. And this line of efforts would help unleash the potential for human relations and community building to the fullest extent down the road.* Attached the File
IFNAS FOCUS 2022-32E(김태환)_(1).pdf