K-Soft Power Soft Power & Economy Soft power is used by political scientists to describe the ability of a country to shape preferences indirectly. This soft power stems from the perceptions of a country’s culture and values. The last 20 years have seen a huge rise in South Korea’s international footprint, as popular K-Dramas and K-Pop songs are watched and listened to around the globe, and Korean beauty and fashion products are world-renowned. With this surge in global popularity, South Korea’s soft power grows in tandem. While this success is certainly a product of the hard work of those involved in these industries, it’s also a result of intentional government support and investment to showcase Korean culture to a global audience. Thus, the South Korean government has utilized the growing popularity of Korean cultural exports as a tool to bolster its soft power. While the popularity of South Korea’s cultural exports is well known, the South Korean government has also used its values and foreign diplomacy to boost its international image. To better understand South Korea’s use of soft power, this chapter will break soft power into three components: political values, culture, and foreign policy. However, before looking at these three aspects of South Korea’s soft power, the accompanying video briefly explains soft power and why it is important for South Korea. Political Values in South Korea While today South Korea is a vibrant democracy, this was not true for much of the 1900s. Following the Korean War, the South Korean government has undergone several republics of governance. These republics each correspond to a government defined by a different constitution. Thus, there have been six different republics in South Korea since the Korean War, with most being undemocratic until the most recent republic. With the formation of the Sixth Republic in 1987, the people of South Korea have continually fought hard to make South Korea one of the most democratic states in the world. As countries around the world struggle with threats to democracy, South Korea’s democratic political values are a role model for the rest of the world. History of Democracy The decades after the Korean War were mired by military and authoritarian rule, which prompted political backlash despite the economic growth achieved. As South Koreans became more displeased with the government, pro-democracy movements formed across the country in the 1980s. The protest movements of the 1980s were incredibly successful, and they are arguably responsible for making South Korea the democracy it is today. COVID-19 Response and Soft Power Moon Chung-in, a special foreign policy advisor to current President Moon Jae-in, talks about the ways in which South Korea has succeeded in its response to the Covid-19 pandemic. Moon Chung-in highlights how South Korea has garnered a lot of international attention and respect by successfully curtailing the pandemic. Korean Voting during COVID-19 South Korea has been one of the first countries to safely hold elections during a pandemic, serving as an example to the rest of the world on how to conduct a secure election that minimizes the risk of Covid-19. This success is a testament to South Korea, which has protected both its people and its democracy. Culture of South Korea The rise in South Korea’s cultural popularity can be traced back to the early 2000s, when the government created laws to invest in cultural exports to fuel economic growth. The recent rise in South Korea’s cultural exports has helped spread Korean culture throughout the world, which helps generate feelings of goodwill towards South Korea; this rise in popularity is known as the Hallyu or the Korean Wave. As an example, since 2000 to 2018, the U.S. population’s favorability of South Korea has risen from 49 to 77 as of 2018. Given the success of the Hallyu, it is likely that South Korea will continue investing in cultural exports as a form of soft power. Hallyu As stated by the Center for Korean Studies, the Hallyu, or the Korean Wave, refers to “the global popularity of South Korea’s Cultural Economy. The Hallyu initially began in the late 1990s, as Korean cultural exports grew in popularity throughout Southeast and East Asian countries. This growth has continued since the turn of the century, with popular Korean entertainers known across the globe. The Hallyu is a result of intentional government support, talented individuals, and a surge in global interest in South Korea. Types of Cultural Exports The range of cultural exports from South Korea is expansive, ranging from entertainment, music, TV shows and movies, and unique cultural exports like Korean beauty and food products. While K-Dramas and K-Pop are the most popular aspects of the Hallyu, Korean fashion and food industries have also risen in global popularity in recent years. The popularity of cultural exports has in turn led to increased tourism to South Korea, with people around the world hoping to experience a taste of Korean culture. The Power of Culture The global popularity of South Korea’s cultural exports helps create positive feelings towards South Korea. The Hallyu has helped shape South Korea’s national image, as people around the world look up to Korean entertainers and superstars. Furthermore, the popularity of brands like Samsung and LG has also generated a lot of global goodwill towards South Korea. Thus, popular brands and cultural exports have helped build South Korea’s image as an advanced, culturally influential country of global importance. Foreign Policy of South Korea As South Korea has become a more influential country, it has utilized its foreign policy to promote democratic values and Korean pop-culture abroad. South Korea’s foreign policy seeks to use public diplomacy to enhance its global image. This is exemplified by South Korea’s Presidential Council on Nation Branding, which serves to promote South Korea’s soft power by shaping its image abroad. The government achieves this through a variety of ways, such as through partnerships with foreign companies and countries, investments in Korean language and culture institutes, and participating in global conventions and meetings. Foreign Policy through Public Diplomacy As South Korea has become an important global country, the government has strengthened its diplomatic efforts. As outlined by an Ambassador for the Korean Ministry of Foreign Affairs, South Korea has innovated its public diplomacy to take a more active approach. Using its soft power and favorable image, South Korea’s public diplomacy aims to harness its diplomacy to promote favorable causes at a global scale. Thus, South Korea has become an increasingly important actor in fighting for causes like climate change, human rights, and good governance. This active public diplomacy is a sign of the strength of South Korea’s soft power. Diplomacy through Language Even against the wave of attacks on This video is a compilation of advertisements for the King Sejong Institute, which is an organization that helps teach Korean to people around the world. The institute is named after King Sejong, who is the creator of Hangul, the Korean alphabet. Learning Korean has become increasingly popular around the world, with institutes in over 55 countries around the world. The learning of Korean is another example of South Korea’s rising soft power. Foreign Policy Strategies Korea’s soft power is a result of direct governmental policy and is an example of how a small country can have an outsized influence on the rest of the world. This article explores how South Korea’s strategy of growing cultural export industries can lead to “greater recognition, respect, and status in the international community”. Strategies like the use of foreign embassies to promote Korean culture, government partnerships with foreign businesses, and direct government investment, help build South Korea’s soft power. The growth of Korea’s soft power also directly affects its hard power, as greater global awareness of South Korea leads to more tourism, foreign direct investment, and business transactions for Korea’s economy. Effects of South Korean Soft Power The rise in South Korea’s cultural popularity can be traced back to the early 2000s, when the In a world that has become increasingly globalized, the importance of soft power has steadily risen. Globalization has led countries to become more conflict-averse, as many countries depend on the global economy for key goods. This global economy has given way for countries to create exports that reach a global audience. In response to this, over the last 20 years, South Korea’s government has successfully pursued strategies to create cultural exports that are recognized globally. This has had the positive effect of bolstering South Korea’s soft power and leading to tangible economic gains. However, some argue that South Korea’s government could do more to benefit from its soft power. Increase in Tourism One clear beneficiary of South Korea’s investment in soft power is its tourism industry. While the exact percent increase in tourism from the Hallyu is hard to discern, this study aimed to study how much tourism has resulted from increased interest in Korean pop culture. The study found that there was a statistically significant increase in tourism to Korea due to the rise of Korean popular culture. This is a clear example of how soft power benefits South Korea. A Global Culture Another aspect in which South Korea’s soft power strategies have been successful is in the learning of Korean throughout the world. As noted in this article, the number of students learning Korean in the US was 163 in 1998 compared to over 14000 in 2018. Thus, the past 20 years have helped cement South Korea’s status as a global culture, with a language spoken throughout the world. The rise in Korean language learning is a definitive success of South Korea’s soft power diplomacy. Potential Improvements Despite the intentional government investment in soft power strategies, there are some ways in which South Korea’s soft power has fallen short of expectations. As reported by this soft power index, South Korea’s soft power is hindered by the various scandals that have occurred in the entertainment industries. Furthermore, this article argues that South Korea would benefit from investing further in public diplomacy efforts to “better engage global audiences”. South Korea’s intentional embrace of soft power approaches to international affairs has had remarkable returns, with South Korea’s language and culture on the rise and an advanced economy to back it. However, in today’s international politics, it is clear that soft power is by no means an end all be all. Countries have soft power and hard power; both types of power play an important role in determining how successful a country is in today’s globalized world. Thus, while South Korea has hard power in terms of a strong military and economy, it must utilize both its soft power and hard power in tandem to succeed on an international level.