As part of a lecture series, President Yim Sung-joon of the Korea Foundation gave a presentation, titled “Korea’s Future Strategies in the Era of Globalization,” at Seogwipo, Jeju-do, on September 23.
In conjunction with the 2008 Jeju Global Citizenship Lecture Series, which has been co-organized by the City of Seogwipo and Tamna University, Korea Foundation President Yim Sung-joon was invited to appear as a guest speaker. In line with the Foundation’s recent efforts to expand its cooperative relations with regional governments across the country, this kind of lecture event helps the organization to involve the provincial regions and institutions in a comprehensive promotion of public diplomacy, related to the promotion of Korea’s soft power and national brand value.
In particular, the Jeju lecture series is a part of civic programs launched by the Jeju provincial government, for the purpose of promoting the island as a global center of culture and tourism. The lecture themes have covered a broad range of topics, including the local cuisine and dining etiquette, Jeju’s cultural competitiveness from the perspective of a film director, and the global financial system and an individual’s role in globalization.
This session was attended by an audience of about 200 people comprising government officials, students, businesspeople, and ordinary citizens, who gathered at the Seogwipo Civic Center for the presentation. Kim Hyoung-soo, the Mayor of Seogwipo, delivered opening remarks and introduced the guest speaker, Yim Sung-joon.
President Yim’s lecture focused on the importance of soft power in the 21st century, and Korea’sstrategy to bolster its international stature. This started with an explanation of the international political system of the 20th century that had been dominated by the Cold War and the supremacy of “hard power,” in which global influence was related to military strength. Then, the collapse of the Soviet Union and the end of the Cold War accelerated the advance of globalization. The world experienced a fundamental shift in its political and economic environment with the adoption of an entirely new paradigm, without precedent in world history. With the United States as the world’s sole superpower, it was expected that other countries, like the newly independent states of the Eastern Bloc, would be integrated into a uni-polar world, characterized by liberal democracy and market economy.
However, the emergence of alternative perspectives and ideologies came to the fore, thereby challenging the international system led by the U.S. and Western countries. This clash of ideology culminated in the tragic September 11 terrorist attacks. The shock of this incident resulted in a need to reevaluate the previous U.S. approach to public diplomacy, which contributed to the introduction of a “soft power” concept, which focused on the use of persuasion to gain influence. This development led to a diminution in the value of hard power and its reliance on military capability.Public Diplomacy
As for the relationship between soft power, public diplomacy, and national brand, it was explained that public diplomacy is implemented by national governments in order to upgrade a country’s soft power, which is often measured by the level of its “national brand” value. A national brand is determined by various factors, such as economic performance, cultural capability, international cooperation, and domestic governance.
As for the strategy that Korea should adopt to bolster its competitiveness in the globalization era and enhance the effectiveness of its soft power efforts, it was suggested that Korea should formulate its own model of development, which other countries might emulate, along with developing creative cultural content that can appeal to a variety of the world’s peoples.
Unfortunately, Korea maintains relatively low levels of recognition and brand value in many parts of the world, despite its notable successes and achievements. A key factor behind this situation is Korea’s geo-political circumstances; being surrounded by major powers, along with the relative weakness of its regional influence. In addition, Korea’s efforts to position itself in the international community have been rather ineffective thus far. Of note, Korea needs to clearly differentiate itself from the cultures and identities of its neighboring countries, through a better “packaging” of its resources and assets.
It was also emphasized that Korea’s economic development model is still the envy of the developing world. As such, Korea has much to offer to other countries, as one of the very few countries that has enjoyed such remarkable economic development, since the conclusion of World War II. Meanwhile, more effort is needed to promote and publicize the richness of Korea’s unique cultural heritage abroad. In addition, it is also incumbent upon Korea to take on a more active role in the resolution of global issues, as a responsible member of the international community.Globalization Efforts
Of course, organizations like the Korea Foundation will play a key role in Korea’s public diplomacy efforts to promote understanding of Korea and its culture abroad. However, the individual citizens of Jeju-do can also contribute to the internationalization of provincial regions. For example, Jeju-do can take advantage of its abundance of human and natural resources, and beautiful natural scenery. In fact, as the premier tourist destination of Korea, Jeju-do has vast potential to develop into a tourism hub of the Northeast Asian region. For this, a comprehensive master plan and investment strategy will be required. Currently, the officially designated Jeju Special Self-Governing Province has developed plans to launch ambitious projects for its internationalization, economic development, and tourism development.
President Yim’s lecture, which was well-received by the audience, included a lively post-lecture discussion of various issues, related to such matters as Korea’s globalization and public diplomacy. With its emphasis on closer cooperation with provincial regions, the Korea Foundation will be actively participating in more events like the Seogwipo lecture.