Today's foreign policy expands beyond government actors to civil society and non-governmental organizations. It has become increasingly important to utilize not only hard power assets, such as political affairs, security and economic affairs, but also soft power assets, such as culture, shared values and national image.
Adjusting to the current diplomatic climate, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA) has moved beyond the sphere of traditional government-oriented diplomacy by increasing its focus on public diplomacy, which includes reaching out to the foreign public through the arts, knowledge sharing, media, language, and aid. MOFA has worked hard to establish public diplomacy as the third pillar of its foreign policy along with political and economic affairs.
MOFA tried to enact the Act on Public Diplomacy with a view to establishing the integrated and systematic public diplomacy groundwork in government-wide and pan-national dimension. In late November of 2015, the Act passed at the National Assembly’s Foreign Affairs and Unification Committee. Besides, MOFA has made efforts to increase the budget for expanding its public diplomacy capabilities since the current administration took office in 2013.
A variety of events, whose main objectives are to introduce Korea to foreign pubic, were initiated and implemented by Korean diplomatic missions abroad. For example, some contests on Korea were held: foreign contestants competed on their knowledge on Korea and showed off their talent for Korean food, dance, songs, etc. In addition, the so-called ‘Korea Corner’ was built in foreign universities or town halls, which aims for providing comprehensive, accurate and in-depth information on Korea.
MOFA succeeded in inserting Korea’s successful history of development into foreign textbooks and tried to revise distorted image of Korea described in foreign media or textbooks. Also, several participatory public diplomacy programs were implemented : ‘the Youth/Senior Public Diplomatic Corps’, ‘Every Citizen is a Foreign Service Officer’, ‘Dream Project’ and ‘public diplomacy interns at foreign missions’. Through these programs, MOFA gained the support of the Korean people in public diplomacy and made full use of the diplomatic capacity of the general public.
To share its public diplomacy practices and experiences with other countries and actively establish channels for collaboration, MOFA sought to hold public diplomacy forums with major countries. For instance, the Korea-China Public Diplomacy Forum has been annually held since 2013 and came to be a meaningful opportunity for discussing substantive ways to increase cooperation in public diplomacy. Recently, MOFA is discussing the launch of public diplomacy forums with the US and Japan.
Korea has been actively participating in the various activities of UNESCO. Korea was elected as a member of the Executive Board of UNESCO for the 2015-2019 term, International Coordinating Council of the Programme on Man and the Biosphere(MAB) for the 2015-2019 term, Intergovernmental Council of the International Hydrological Programme(IHP) for the 2017-2021 term, Intergovernmental Bioethics Committee(IGBC) for the 2015-2019 term, Head Quarter Committee for the 2017-2021 term, Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission(IOC) for the 2017-2019 term, Intergovernmental Committee of Convention on the Protection and Promotion of the Diversity of Cultural Expressions for the 2017-2021 term, Subsidiary Committee of Convention on the Means of Prohibiting and Preventing the Illicit Import, Export and Transfer of Ownership of Cultural Property for the 2017-2021 term, and Intergovernmental Committee for Promoting the Return of Cultural Property to its Countries of Origin or its Restitution in case of Illicit Appropriation(ICPRCP) for the 2017-2021 term.
MOFA also celebrated every 10th anniversary of the establishment of Korea's diplomatic relationships with other countries and the special diplomatic occasions through a variety of cultural events. In 2015, MOFA held celebrations with 14 countries, strengthening mutually cooperative relationships and introducing Korean Arts and Culture to these countries. In addition, with the 2015-2016 Année France-Corée (2015-2016 Year of Korea-France Bilateral Exchanges), Eurasia Express, and the ROK-Visegrad Group cooperation, it took advantage of these meaningful diplomatic events to showcase Korea’s high-end culture and arts. Through performances, exhibitions and film festivals, Korea has been striving to increase mutual understanding among other nations.
Hallyu (the Korean wave) serves as an important element of Korea's public diplomacy. Thus, MOFA conducts statistical research on the current status of Hallyu in each country. Based on the results of such research, MOFA has provided support for Hallyu fan clubs' voluntary activities. With Hallyu as a medium, it has been seeking to promote communication among people with different cultural backgrounds. Furthermore, MOFA implemented the Mutual Cultural Exchange Program to promote, within Korea, the cultures of regions that have had relatively little mutual exchanges with Korea so as to prevent one-way cultural exchanges.
Foreign missions also held Korean food and film festivals and exhibit Korean artwork at posts and Chief of Mission residences. These programs contributed to strengthening Korea's brand and image overseas.
MOFA strives to improve the image of Korea and strengthen its relations with other countries through sports. It has focused on sports diplomacy by hosting international sports games and working to host successful major international games, which all have a great ripple effect on the economy and improve the image of Korea.
(Picture 1) Korean Ambassador’s Cup Taekwondo Tournament in Zimbabwe
(Picture 2) Taekwondo Exchange Program for Youth in China