South Korea Public diplomacy and COVID-19: Aspects of impact and improvement
Prepared by the researcher – Khaoula Yagoubi – Human Rights Master student, Morocco
Democratic Arab Center
Journal of Afro-Asian Studies : Ninth Issue – May 2021
A Periodical International Journal published by the “Democratic Arab Center” Germany – Berlin. The journal deals with the field of Afro-Asian strategic, political and economic studies
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The purpose of this paper is to highlight the role of South Korea public diplomacy in COVID-19 era. Emphasizing the role and purpose of Public diplomacy in favor of traditional international relations channels, as diplomacy has become a strong tool for nation-state governments to publicly promote their countries vision and values to foreigners through more informal mediums and strategies. A whole range of non-state actors influence the image of a country abroad, and information technologies gives them multiple communication mechanisms, reaching to were traditional diplomat cannot reach.
We will showcase Korea’s P D journey and what differentiates it. Unmasking prior to that ; the governmental early response to the virus outbreak, with an emphasis on using cultural diplomacy to share more of so successful tecno-science based response and data-driven leadership of the Korean Republic amidst covid sars cov 2 pandemic.
The current state of international relations can be characterized by a high degree of global interconnection. This shift in international affairs has been driven by several factors: technological advancements in information and communications, increased movement of people, dominance of the free trade economy, transnational crime and security threats and the growing concern over the global environment. These changes in the international sphere have called for a more open, cooperative and technologically-based approach to the way state affairs are conducted.Diplomacy as one of soft power’s key instrument keeps facing inconsistent changes due to several factors shaping it.
The year 2020 is exceptionally onerous not only for Koreans but for the whole world as an unannounced pandemic hit the globe and forced every government to take unusual measures in order to protect their citizens right for a life and a good health .
In the New age, diplomacy has become a strong tool for nation-state governments to publicly promote their countries vision and values, using more of a business approach and engaging other non-traditional actors and contributors in the international relations field; exemplar celebrities, civil society and private companies.
South Korea (also reoffered to in this paper as Korea) model of Public diplomacy could be characterise as ‘’mega diplomacy’’ or the “new public diplomacy”. Since the ministry of foreign affairs start using strategically more unconventional methods aiming to communicate with foreign audiences Korea’s national interests – a form of Korea cultural diplomacy – also known as the Korean ‘Hallyu’ wave, which refers to the increasing spread of Korean culture around the world. The Foreign Ministry aims to incorporate this trend into its public diplomacy efforts through assisting professional Korean artists in promoting their work abroad. This example of a partnership model will be used in conjunction with the integration of new media for better two-way communication.
South Korea has been seen in light of a success model, having achieved modernization and economic development over a short period of time; demonstrated by the freedom of expression through an political awareness of it people leading the unprecedented impeachment of a president (President Park Geun-Hye), following popular grass-roots candlelight rallies.
Against this background, this paper will shed a light on how did the preexisting tools of South Korea’ public diplomacy took place amidst COVID-19 situation, and how could the Korean government increase its effectiveness post COVID era?
DEFINITION OF PUBLIC DIPLOMACY:
Scholars have provided a variety of definitions of public diplomacy, for instance defined by Paul Sharp public diplomacy is “ the process by which direct relations with people in a country are pursued to advance the interests and extend the value of those being represented’’, along with Hans Tuch’ perception “a government’s process of communicating with foreign publics in an attempt to bring about understanding for its nation’s ideas and ideals, its institutions and culture, as well as its national goals and policies ”; by the agency of variety of means, including international programs, cultural and educational exchange programmes etc .
Philip Taylor uses the term “perception management” to describe the informational role of public diplomacy by drawing a distinction between public affairs, public interest, psychological operations, media management and public diplomacy. Stressing the important role of public diplomacy to communicate and inform in different means the vision of a certain country and to help form a certain image overlooking the traditional state-to-state formal communication but creating future allies of international citizens.
No matter which definition scholars use, the instruments of public diplomacy, according to Gilboa , include advocacy, broadcasting, public relations, cultural diplomacy, exchange, and national branding. Advocacy and broadcasting can be categorized as immediate, reactive forms of public diplomacy. This tools had helped Korea to become a force recon with, raising her flag high in international forums such as hosting the Olympic games in 1988, hosting the football World Cup 2002, hosting a G20 Summit in 2010, hosting the Nuclear Security Summit 2013 and the Seoul Conference on Cyberspace in 2013 ect.
Notwithstanding, the Korean Public Diplomacy Act defines public diplomacy legally in that “diplomatic activities through which the State enhances foreign nationals’ understanding of and confidence in the Republic of Korea directly or in cooperation with local governments or the private sector through culture, knowledge and policies, etc’’ , making of the state the main actor and local governments and private sectors cooperative actors influencing by different instrument the government policies in this regard .
This last point, deliver a better understanding of South Korea public diplomacy found on it being a part of the ‘soft power’; Soft power of a country is created through the activities of multiple actors and organizations impacting foreign audience – artists, art galleries and music television, NGOs, political parties, writers and artists’ associations, journalists and media groups, researchers and teachers, entrepreneurs and religious leaders etc . That’s how public diplomacy varies on official diplomacy by involving different formal and informal actors and communicating with international citizens.
Considering this statements as the underpinning of this paper, first we must understand the Koran strategies regardless dealing with former health crisis, interlinking with informative role of PG and its cultural aspect.
SOUTH KOREA CRISIS MANAGEMENT STRATEGIES:
We must project the mind-set of Korean officials on dealing with health crisis in order to better understand the international projection of the country’s way of managing COVID19.
Crisis management was fundamentally reformed under the previous Roh Moo-hyun administration in ways that could transcend political or personal preferences. Roh’s reforms was not political but instead was a combination of factors, including certain failures of the government’s past responses to crises, a less intense threat perception of North Korea, and a growing awareness and integration of the ROK’s crisis management and national security communities with those of other advanced nations. Moreover, the Korean military services and Korean nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) are becoming increasingly involved in multilateral activities overseas, such as peacekeeping operations or disaster relief and humanitarian assistance missions, a situation that is prompting the ROK government to adopt many international standards.
Dealing with SARS in 2003 (Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome) a viral respiratory infectious disease, South Korea had a good response to the outbreak by launching a national surveillance system in March 16, 2003 that served for monitoring and quick taking of suspected cases. later in 2009 an outbreak on influenza H1N1 retched Korea, luckily the Korean government developed a plan for pandemic influenza preparedness and response in 2006 following the WHO recommendations. The Team of Training for Public Health Crisis was initially set up on the side of one part of the Division of Epidemic Intelligence Service within the Korean Center for Disease Control and Prevention (KCDC) worked on enhance the country’s preparedness to secure medical resources, to provide manuals, and to train public health personnel in case of an emerging infectious disease causing public health crises. In 2015 a massive outbreak of MERS (Middle East respiratory syndrome coronavirus)occurred in South Korea, which not only was considered the second greatest number of cases in the world after Saudi Arabia it resulted in severe negative impact on Korea’s economy. Receiving heavy criticism for the government’s mishandling of the outbreak in its initial stage and problems in initial communicative responses.we are not going to go in depth on every governmental response facing this tree challenging health crisis, motherless we will later take a look on how the republic of Korea worked on enhancing its respond and early phase communication and preparedness.
In South Korea, disaster is defined in view of an event that can cause damage to people’s life, body, and property and to the nation in accordance with the ‘Basic Act on Disaster and safety Management’. In the event of a disaster, the Ministry of the Interior and Safety, centering on the National Disaster and Safety Status Control Center, will establish the Central Accident Practice Headquarters, depending on the type of disasters, and operate the Si/Gun/Gu Safety Measure Headquarters, constituting a vertical administrative organization that manages situation control, administrative assistance, rescue emergency, emergency assistance, volunteer works, etc.
After this three major health crisis, and other social disasters and Natural one (for example numerous Typhoons and Floods, the Sunken Sewall Ferry Accident in 20114 and Oil spill from crashed oil tankan in Taean 2007 just to name few ) that Korea had to survive and learn from it, developing a structured detailed plane of response for future infectious diseases outbreaks will be highlighted internationally amidst COVID1 19 outbreak and a global hunt for effective governmental response balancing between controlling the virus, protecting lives and preventing an economy reset .
COVID-19 situation in the Republic of Korea : Background and response
We must first understand the element of the domestic diplomacy that south Korea had used in order to manage the virus outbreak, in which this methods where communicated to other international actors; foreign general public or organisation through cultural diplomacy mediums that where established through the Korean cultural wave. Stating that South Korea had learned and start a fundamental reforms and investments to date from the past health crisis, one of the advantages on dealing with covid19 is that South Korea was generally better prepared to respond to a wider range of both domestic and regional crises, belding more a strong global diplomacy has earned Korea a seat in the top for a quickly and effectively crisis management and international security arenas.
Tracing Korea’s first case of public diplomacy “back to the activities of the delegation headed by Mr. Jungyang Park, the first Ambassador to the United States, in January 1888, till retching the start of the Korean Wave originated in the late ‘90s effected by a governmental efforts to improve Korea’s image in the international community through global popularity of Korean culture driven by K-pop and K-drama and, more recently, K-food and K-tech. On the grounds that it later on under the auspices of the Prime Minister, created the National Image Committee, Designed to develop a strategy to improve Korea’s global status”. And in a second step, in late November of 2015, the Act on Public diplomacy passed at the National Assembly’s Foreign Affairs and Unification Committee which went into effect in August 2016, correspondingly the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in different administrations made efforts to increase the budget for expanding its public diplomacy capabilities. Sequentially establishing the Public Diplomacy Committee to deliberate on and coordinate the principal matters for a comprehensive and systematic PD policy, this Committee consists of no more than 20 committee members from relevant ministries and other government in conjunction with civilian public diplomacy specialists, In a nutshell, this committee serves in the name of a control tower for public diplomacy. Additionally, there is the possibility of a working group to hold consultations and coordinate items on the Committee agenda.
Proceeding to have one organized public diplomacy by all governmental agencies creating this policies; the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade, the cultural exchanges by the Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism, and the official development assistance (ODA) by the Ministry of Knowledge Economy., the Korea International Cooperation Agency (KOICA), the Korea Foundation (KF), and other Overseas Koreans Foundations.
Concurrently the world has become more aware of South Korea’ history, language and culture setting it apart from its regional neighbours beside the economic benefits .As a result Korea has successfully built an image of a sophisticated, advanced, democratic polished country to foreigners nations .
We will now see how did the situation of a global health crisis challenged South Korea public diplomacy planes (past the First Master Plan for Korean public diplomacy (2017-2021) Committee in 2017) and helped placing it in the top ranch of countries successfully dealing with the crisis.
Although South Korea saw the first confirmed COVID-19 case on January 20 2020, and become the second most infected country after China by early March. It became known to the public for its outstanding response that flattened the epidemic curve quickly without taking sever and strict measures like other European countries, for instance mandatory closing businesses, issuing stay-at-home orders .
South Korea transparency and rapid communication of information :
South Korea successful crisis management led by very details domestic public policy based on these points:
- Communication :
- As The Korean Centres for Disease Control conducts twice-daily briefings and offering daily updates in English for foreigners living in the country. Sharing relevant information and making it accessible to the general public by sending daily government alerts on phones about new public announcements according to respective vicinity or location. Resuming to an early recognition of the threat and rapid activation of national response protocols.
- Tower managing crisis and communications was set up to provide crisis management governance. This consisted of a control tower (a working group cantered around the KCDC/ Korea Centre for Disease Control), an advisory group (medical experts) and a decision-making group (central government leaders who were able to execute decisions quickly and provide resources and other support, as needed).A crisis management manual was developed that the crisis management team would be able to expand or re-position to fit the actual crisis stage/level, and key members of the team underwent mock trainings to simulate potential scenarios. And this already existing channel eased speeding and revising critical information.
- The Disease Control and Prevention Act guarantees the public’s right to be informed of the latest updates regarding the infectious disease outbreak, infection prevention/control information, and relevant responses and mandates the government to reveal the routes of confirmed cases, their transportation means, their contacts, healthcare institutions visited, etc. In other words, kept K citizens updated and aware of every changing details, over and above ; charring this effective measures with transparency through official and cultural web side and SNS channels, in the time where the whole world was connected was a strong point in the Korean public diplomacy in the time between created a publicity for the foreigner nations .
- On of south Korea successful tools to manage this crises was by employing technology to its rapid response; deploying apps that use public government data to track patients who have tested positive and enabling citizens to track suspected and confirmed cases path , and even the number of masks currently available.
- Convenient wide testing :
- Korea was one of the first countries to undertake extensive diagnostic testing capacity, supposing the key to minimizing damage and containing the spread of the virus through the early detection of confirmed case. The cumulative total of diagnostic tests conducted over 2,151,002 (as of 12 am on September 14 2020 according to the Korean centre Disaster Management Headquarters) diagnostic tests. Healthcare professionals are allowed to perform diagnostic testing on any individual suspected of having COVID-19 free of charge.
- Using the drive through/ LATER walk-thru method and screening stations showed how to create affective policies while taking on consideration the life speed of the GP and the use of new creative means. Setting up screening stations at public health centers and healthcare institutions to ensure easier access to diagnostic testing and effectively control infection and have diversified the operating models to better respond to increasing testing demands. This rapidly deployed workforce enabled South Korea’s pol- icy of “never give up” contact tracing. Such meticulous tracing led to earlier case detection than would have otherwise been possible. Continuous use of this strategy also seems to have kept the rate of new infections at a lower pace than that in most other countries impacted by the pandemic. Adding a rapid development of diagnostic kits.
- Public a wariness :
- The GP showed a high level of discipline to the preventive measures sampling personal hygiene and social distancing and a national concern to help control the sped of the virus, which made it possible to not postpone the national elections in the 15 of April.
South Korea had taken more of shared-interest–oriented response fare from a politics oriented one with mixed messages based on no scientific reasons. We focused on the triple T (TRACE TEST TREAT ) Corona virus management plane that Korea had developed and executed to show mostly new element different from the European west crisis management, that had so many people keeping a close eye on new inventive measures from Korea and importing there solutions based on international cooperation and shared information.
The Korean strategic approach from day one to the COVID-19 outbreak had undeniably helped to realize public diplomacy purpose in such an expected manner. From a techno-science based response and data-driven leadership, along with the willingness of sharing information about police policy making and crisis management with other governments; as the current President of the Republic of Korea Moon Jae-in expressed “Korea will play an active role to promote international solidarity in COVID-19 responses. There will also be a lot of room for cooperation on COVID-19 responses”.
We must recognize, digital technology as a prominent tool chapping a new era of public diplomacy, changing the way people seek information, express opinions and create movement and most importantly generate a great deal of data that allows through analyzing it to have a clear multi- dimensional diagram of PD respecters, major actors and effective channels.
As South Korea utilized cultural diplomacy to present a dream/ future land for foreigners targeting mainly the youth, we believe it’s about time to conceder retching more a broad audience through higher engagement in international Forums of different specialties. Combined impact of both traditional international relations and diplomacy channels such as embassies to work on field and make the name, flag, language of South Korea more known to the local communities. We emphasize on engaging with the receiver’s culture and heritage, conversely create a safe welcoming atmosphere in the Korean society throughout higher inclusion and tolerant formal speeches. Further we may add as our last suggestion, mirroring domestic diplomacy with its public; creating a polished image can only stand the test of time if it represent the reality, improve direct communication with k citizens, respecting their fundamental human rights, and work on strengthening a democratic political involvement will further a sustainable South Korea’s Pubic.
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 Riordan, Shaun, The New Public Diplomacy, Oxford: Blackwell Publishing Ltd, 2003, P.50-65.
 Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade, Republic of Korea, Key Diplomatic Tasks , Australian Institute of International Affairs, Domestic Public Diplomacy Discussion Paper: International Experience ,2012 ,p 12.
 Blomgren R, Autonomy or Democratic Cultural Policy: That is the Question, International Journal of Cultural Policy 18 ,2012 , P 519–529.
 Paul sharp, Revolutionary states, Outlaw regimes and the techniques of Public diplomacy, Jan Melissen ed, The New Public Diplomacy.
 Hans Tuch, communication with the world, US public diplomat overseas, institute for the study of diplomacy, 1990, P 3.
 Elena Gurgu, THE ROLE OF PUBLIC DIPLOMACY IN INTERNATIONAL RELATIONS IN FULL PROCESS OF GLOBALIZATION ,Annals of Spiru Haret University ,2016, P 128.
 Gilboa E, Searching for a theory of public diplomacy, The ANNALS of the American Academy of Political and Social Science, 2008, P 55–77.
 Atsushi Tago, Public Diplomacy and Foreign Policy, World Politics, 2017, P 3 . Retrieved from https://oxfordre.com/politics/view/10.1093/acrefore/9780190228637.001.0001/acrefore-9780190228637-e-471?print=pdf Accessed 13/09/2020.
 Public Diplomacy act enacted by the Republic of Korea in 2016 is the the first law in South Korea to address public diplomacy activities intend to contribute to Korea’s image and prestige in the international community by establishing a foundation to strengthen public diplomacy and to enhance the efficiency thereof by providing for matters necessary for public diplomacy activities. According to the First article.
 Melissen Jan, Wielding Soft Power: The New Public Diplomacy, The Hague: Netherlands Institute of International Relations “Clingendael”, 2005.
 James L. Schoff and Choi Hyun-jin , Reform Locally, Act Globally? Crisis Management Trends in Korea, Korea economic institute of America academic paper series ,volume 3 , 2008, P 1.
 Kim Dohyeong, Public Health Crisis in South Korea: Policy Failure or Social Distrust?, KIPA the Korea Institute of Public Administration, 2017, P 6. Retrieved From https://www.researchgate.net/publication/320137898_Public_Health_Crisis_in_South_Korea_Policy_Failure_or_Social_Trust Accessed 14/09/2020.
 Taejun (David) Lee, Crisis Communication: The Case of the 2015 Middle East Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus Outbreak, Chapter 4 Case Studies on Public Policy in Korea for Knowledge Sharing , KDI Korea Development Institute ,2017, P 157.
 Young Seok Song , Moo Jong Park , Jung Ho Lee , Byung Sik Kim and Yang Ho Song, Improvement Measure of Integrated Disaster Management System Considering Disaster Damage Characteristics: Focusing on the Republic of Korea, Sustainability, MDPI, 2020, P 7.
Yun Young Cho, Public Diplomacy and South Korea’s Strategies, The Korean Journal of International Studies, Vol. 10, No. 2 ,2012 P 13-14.
 Kwang-jin Choi, The Republic of Korea’s Public Diplomacy Strategy: History and Current Status, USC center on Public diplomacy, Figueroa Press, 2019, P 16.
 Surekha Ragavan, COVID19: why South Korea’s graceful crisis comms should be a lesson for all, PRWeek ,2020 . Retrieved From https://www.prweek.com/article/1680335/covid-19-why-south-koreas-graceful-crisis-comms-lesson Accessed 13/09/2020.
 Central Disaster and Safety Countermeasure Headquarters, Korea’s Response to COVID-19 and Future Direction, 2020, P 4.
Central Disaster and Safety Countermeasure Headquarters, Korea’s Response to COVID-19 and Future Direction, 2020, P 7.
 Juhwan Oh , Jong-Koo Lee , Dan Schwarz , Hannah L. Ratcliffe , Jeffrey F. Markuns & Lisa R. Hirschhorn , National Response to COVID-19 in the Republic of Korea and Lessons Learned for Other Countries , Health Systems & Reform , 2020, P 6 . https://doi.org/10.1080/23288604.2020.1753464 Accessed 15/09/2020.
 President Moon Jae-in Republic of Korea April 8, 2020 Phone Conference to President of Republic of Estonia.
The Government of the Republic of Korea, How Korea responded to a pandemic using ICT Flattening the curve on COVID-19, 2020, P 2.