Asian Per­cep­tions Of Korea: The Re­al­ity Of Korean Soft Power

The Global Digest (English) - - Contents - By Staff Cor­re­spon­dent

South Korea be­came a de­vel­oped coun­try within a few decades, and the pop­u­lar­ity of South Korea has grown be­cause of its dy­namic econ­omy, tech­nol­ogy and Korean Hal­lyu. Th­ese are part of South Korea’s soft power in­flu­ences in Asia and around the world. For de­tails, a sur­vey was car­ried out across Asia.

Prof. Jae H. Ku ex­plained that so­cial sci­en­tists talk about method­ol­ogy, not about find­ings. Ac­cord­ing to his sur­vey, par­tic­u­larly in three Asian coun­tries, In­done­sia, the Philip­pines and Thai­land, about “the coun­try of des­ti­na­tion for a bet­ter life,” In­done­sians chose Ja­pan, and Philip­pinos and Thais chose the U.S. Sur­pris­ingly, peo­ple from th­ese three coun­tries even chose China over South Korea. The rea­son is be­cause of le­git­i­mate mi­grant worker com­plaints about South Korea as be­ing the most dif­fi­cult coun­try for them, due to the work con­di­tions and stress. In­ci­den­tally, it is also the coun­try which prac­tices Con­fu­cian­ism, most widely.

In terms of Korean be­hav­ior, 29% of In­done­sians agreed Kore­ans are hard work­ing peo­ple, 24% said they are rude, and 27% said it is good to fol­low South Korea as a model; of Philip­pinos, 29% agreed. For Korean prod­uct mar­ket sat­u­ra­tion, 34% of Thais own Korean made prod­ucts, which is the high­est per­cent­age among Asian coun­tries. Al­though there is the pop­u­lar­ity of Korea Hal­lyu in Asia, 59% of In­done­sians said they nei­ther watch nor lis­ten to Korean Hal­lyu.

For pol­i­tics, it is more con­fus­ing when it comes to the North and South Korean cri­sis. North Korea at­tacked a South Korean war­ship “the Cheo­nan” and also a mil­i­tary base on Yeon­pyeong Is­land in 2010. Al­though South Korea and al­lies have the ca­pac­ity to de­ter North Korea, most Asian coun­tries are not on either side. This sit­u­a­tion has frus­trated South Korea.

Prof. Ku ar­gued that one of the rea­sons is most of the na­tions of South­east Asia (ASEAN) are mem­bers of the Non-Aligned Move­ment. The ar­range­ment al­lows for North Korea to keep re­la­tion­ships with them. “In this cir­cum­stance, it is not easy for South Korea to per­suade other na­tions, but it can be pos­si­ble to per­suade them in long-term plan­ning through such pro­grams as Over­seas De­vel­op­ment As­sis­tance (ODA) and schol­ar­ships to Asian stu­dents in or­der to train and con­vince them to be closer

to the ideal of South Korea,” said Prof. Ku .

North Korea Cri­sis

North Korea has many nat­u­ral resources, said Prof. Ku. One ex­am­ple is min­ing, a po­ten­tially enor­mous industry for eco­nomic de­vel­op­ment for the To­tal­i­tar­ian coun­try . And, through sell­ing min­er­als, North Korea could solve much of its eco­nomic cri­sis, he ar­gued. The prob­lem is that the North Korean gov­ern­ment is cor­rupt.

“There­fore, in the con­tem­po­rary sit­u­a­tion, North Korea is not se­ri­ous about the six party talks,” Prof. Ku pointed out. In ad­di­tion, many ex­perts in Wash­ing­ton did not be­lieve that North Korea would ful­fill its de­nu­cle­ariza­tion re­quire­ments. More­over, some in Wash­ing­ton have doubts about Chi­nese in­flu­ences on North Korean.

In the past, Obama told Hu that if China could not bring North Korea to the di­a­logue ta­ble, the US might re­de­ploy large num­bers of troops, and setup a mis­sile de­fense sys­tem in Ja­pan. In fact, China re­ally doesn’t want regime change and squeezes its com­mu­nist ally.

Most of the Korean cri­sis has been to solve the is­sue through the ‘bal­ance of power’, but the strat­egy failed. Many ar­gue about South Korea’s un­clear stance or po­si­tion when deal­ing with all forms of dic­ta­tors and mil­i­tary regimes for busi­ness pur­poses, in­clud­ing its re­gional busi­ness part­ner, Myan­mar.

There­fore, South Korea should re­de­fine its stance in or­der to solve its own in­ter-Korean cri­sis. Col­lec­tive se­cu­rity will be the best sys­tem, which is orig­i­nally based on democ­racy and hu­man rights . There is hope for a bet­ter fu­ture for the Koreas.

Prof. Jae H. Ku is a Di­rec­tor of the U.S.-Korea In­sti­tute at SAIS, Johns Hop­kins Univer­sity. He grad­u­ated with a Ph.D. from the Johns Hop­kins School of Ad­vanced In­ter­na­tional Stud­ies, M.Sc. from the Lon­don School of Eco­nom­ics, and B.A from Har­vard Univer­sity.

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