Asian Perceptions Of Korea: The Reality Of Korean Soft Power
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.