The Korea Foundation’s Attempt at Holistic Diplomacy

The Korea Foundation is a Seoul-based organization started in 1991 with the purpose of promoting academic and cultural exchange programs. The mission of The Korea Foundation is to promote better understanding of Korea within the international community and to increase friendship and goodwill between Korea and the rest of the world. It aspires to “enhance Korea’s global stature” through the promotion of Korean studies worldwide, and more recently has focused on sharing Korea’s “success story” with the rest of the world. The organization has information about cultural exchange programs, monthly academic and arts based publications as well as new media websites like Twitter and Facebook. The Korea Foundation is widespread, and uses new media, the arts, education and exchange as a platform for diplomacy.


The Korea Foundation was started before the nation’s big media wave, Hallyu, which transformed the nations economy as well as Korea’s image in Asia and around the world. Hallyu helped brand the nation as a modern state, and improved Japan and China’s perceptions of Korea, as well as increased tourism among Korean Pop and Korean Drama fans. While the Korea Foundation has updated through new media and mentions the importance of Hallyu, there has been little emphasis on incorporating the media phenomenon into the organization’s diplomacy strategies. According to a recent survey, 58% of all Korean language learners have been inspired by Kpop. By implementing more Hallyu-related programs, the Korea Foundation could align itself with one of the main contributions to Korea’s “success story”.


National narrative for higher education: Is America is still THE place to study abroad?

While the reputation of our primary and secondary education lags behind Asia in Scandinavia, the U.S. continues to hold a monopoly on the Ivy League schools and many of the top Science universities globally, attracting international students from every corner of the world. The United States’ economy clearly benefits from its historical reputation of being the “best” place for international students to pursue their education. During the 2012-2013 academic school year, 819,644 international students poured over $24 billion dollars into the us economy with tuition, housing and cost of living. The National Association of Foreign Student Advisors (NAFSA) also indicate that international student funding “supports innovation through science and engineering coursework, making it possible for U.S. colleges and universities to offer these courses to U.S. students.” In addition to the obvious economic benefits in attracting international students, the U.S. Department of State has a clear “soft power” agenda when it comes to maintaining this national education narrative.

Education USA is a program created by the U.S. Department of State primarily to attract and support international students. It collaborates with international offices, embassies, consulates, non-profits, bi-cultural centers and the Fullbright program. The website highlights that, “The United States has thousands of accredited colleges and universities renowned for quality, numerous programs of study and flexibility to change fields of study and schools.” Strategic framing is being used to highlight the legitimacy and yet personalized flexibility of the higher education system in America. Clearly there is an agenda of soft power in continuing to play up the narrative that the U.S. is the ideal place to study abroad.

This narrative perhaps emerges in the face of growing popularity of foreign universities coupled with a decrease in international students flows from strategic regional hubs over the last few years. Many believe that the novelty of studying in America is wearing off. While China and Korea are some of the largest groups of incoming international students, uncertainty in the U.S. job markets and increasing economic growth and educational improvements at home are leading many students to study in their country of origin. A New York Times article published this year stated that, “the number of South Korean graduate students in the United States has been dropping since 2010, and the Council of Graduate Schools recently reported that graduate applications from China were down for the second year in a row.”

International Student’s debate is particularly serious within the STEM fields (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Medicine). Because many students are unable to work in the U.S. without a visa, programs are being implemented to allow student to stay and work without employer sponsorship. In order to maintain a narrative of legitimacy, higher education is filled with increasing incentives for STEM students to study and work in the United States following graduation. John Kerry recently stated, “Each and every day, I see how we use science and technology to advance our diplomacy.” International students are vital to science and technology innovation as well as well as contributing to the professional world after graduating.

For decades, America has formed and maintained a narrative of educational excellence and technological innovation. With growing powers forming throughout Asia, the quest to maintain the soft power advantage of being the most rewarding place to study abroad has serious implications for both the U.S. economy and for public diplomacy. Higher education in partnership with the Department of State will continue to pursue American educational narrative coherence through strategic marketing, increased program flexibility, and improved post-degree employment opportunities for international students.

Internet Governance: Public versus Private.

When we we hear the term “governance”, we often think of sovereign, independent nation-states and their central powers of government. However, as many emerging governments have been unable to handle the responsibilities of managing nations with limited resources in unstable political environments, governance is often shifted to other actors. For example, the “governance” of Cambodia is not independently handled by the Cambodian government, but also several other entities like the World Bank, transnational corporations and even celebrity philanthropist, Angelina Jolie. Similarly, the governance of the internet is handled by no one single entity or organization. In fact, debates over governance still exist and actively contribute both the nation of Cambodia and the internet as a platform for communication. Just as globalization in the post-colonial era has shifted the responsibility of the governance of nation-states to various actors, the internet is increasingly diversified and everyone seems to be fighting for a piece of the pie.

Professor Milton Mueller describes internet governance as, “The simplest, most direct, and inclusive label for the ongoing set of disputes and deliberations over how the internet is coordinated, managed and shaped to reflect policies.” But what is being fought for? Many international communications scholars believe the deliberation for ownership of the internet has to do with where power is centralized. According to Laura Denardis in her book, The Global War for Internet Governance, “A significant question of internet governance addresses the appropriate balance of power between the nation and the privatized.” Allocations of the limited internet resources will determine who can use these communication platforms and in turn, who can profit economically and politically from them. Internet governance will continue to be a multi-stakeholder debate, and the results will effect the power relationships between different nations and private actors in the future.

Norwegian Hip Hop

Hip hop has managed to not only achieve popularity world wide, but many cultures have produced their own versions of the music, further evolving it into a global phenomenon. Often called the Norwegian Drake, Dreamon is famous for helping put Norway on the hip hop map. In his song “Minne”, Dreamon, who identifies as African-Norwegian, wears a Sanrio Hello Kitty shirt and baseball cap. Globalization at its finest.

Globalization: Imperialism 2.0 vs. the formation of a global culture

As discussed in class last week, debates still exist as to whether globalization is “imperialism 2.0 or simply the formation of a new ‘global culture’.” One the one hand, we have the theorists who believe globalization encompasses continued western hegemony over the developing world. The other camp claims that as globalization continues, national cultures will decline, resulting in a new global culture. In response to these two claims, many theorists believe that globalization actually promotes stronger individuality of cultures, and that achieving a ‘global culture’ is an unattainable myth.

As critically thinking practitioners of international communication, its important for us to understand the arguments along the spectrum of globalization theory. By holding the current debates in juxtaposition, we remove ourselves from the binary good/bad labels of globalization, and can apply the varying theories to our areas of expertise. For example, practitioners working in the development field need to understand how forces of globalization could aid in economic growth, while also taking into consideration the notion of cultural imperialism that often accompanies global north/south development interactions. Similarly, IC practitioners working in journalism need to understand the role of globalization in media imperialism and propaganda.

“‘Murica” memes as new artifacts of culture and nationalism.

When we think of memes, images like Grumpy Cat, Willy Wonka and Miley Cyrus accompanied by a satirical quote may come to mind. A meme is defined by Webster as an idea, behavior, style, or usage that spreads from person to person within a culture.” The advent of new media has provided a platform for more individuals to publish and create their own cultural artifacts such as video clips, awkward political Facebook statuses, and self-generated memes. As media consumers, we are no longer limited to television or radio to provide us with a sense of cultural identity or nationalism, and anyone can take part in contributing publicly as to “what it means to be an American”, or any other nationality.

These simple images often go viral because they encapsulate a political or cultural idea dialogue would not necessarily be appropriate for more official forms of media. One of my personal favorites is a Facebook page called “So Mexican“. It is full of memes that English speaking Mexicans or “chicanos” would probably identify with as being uniquely Mexican. One meme shows an entire shelf of cowboy boots that says “Mexican Foot Locker”. These memes reinforce and also create a new sense of “modern” nationalism and cultural identity. Another favorite of mine is of a bald eagle saying, “Hey baby, on a scale of 1 to America, how free are you tonight?” Even the term “‘Murica” (Meme lingo for America) helps create a sense of satirical pride for being an American. While many memes criticize American attitudes and political ideology using satire they also reinforce a sense of national identity and belonging. America, “%&$& yeah!

Free Trade, ‘Fair Trade’ and the Modernization/Dependency Debate

The modernization/dependency debate of the 1960’s and 1970’s contributed to the antecedents of the field of international communication. While many believe that this debate is out-dated, it continues to have relevance within the sphere of social and economic development in Latin America today. The original approach to modernization promised economic development through the imposition of western models in the developing world. The dependency theorists criticized modernization, claiming that western transnational corporations set the terms for Latin American markets and operations. According to Thussu, “Despite decades of modernization, the vast majority of the people in the south continued to live in poverty.” Elements of these claims still ring true today in U.S./Mexico relations.

On January 1, 1994, the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) was implemented, creating the world’s largest free trade area (between Canada, the United States and Mexico). It allowed U.S. corporations to conduct trade in Mexico without restriction and promised to help bridge the Mexican poverty gap. Transnational companies like Starbucks, Walmart and Coca-Cola eagerly entered the Mexican market. Starbucks teamed up with an American NGO, Conservation International, in order to gain control of the coffee bean industry in southern Mexico, nearly creating a monopoly on the product. In 2009 I had the pleasure of spending a week with indigenous coffee farmers in Chiapas while studying the roots of immigration. The communities reported significant decrease in coffee profits since the mid-1990’s, compromising their economic well being and cultural autonomy.

According to a report by the Associated Press in 2013, after 20 years, NAFTA failed to close the Mexican poverty gap as well as accomplish many of the other economic and social benefits it had promised. Not surprisingly, this era was also accompanied by exponential growth in illegal immigration. Transnational corporations continue to have immense power in ‘modernizing’ Mexico. While Starbucks continues to sell their brand as “fair-trade” and having socially responsible practices, we must analyze these corporate relationships through the lens of the dependency theory in order to promote ground up social and economic development.