Thursday

South Korea's Civilian Diplomatic Corps for Public Diplomacy

The Global Post reported the launch of the first civilian diplomatic corps by South Korea last month. The article stated,
"The corps with five groups as well as 30 individual adolescents and 20 senior citizens plan to push for diverse projects with the government's support to improve the national image abroad and to help increase its influence on the international arena"
Among Asian countries, South Korea is quite innovative in its approach to PD as seen over the last few years. This information is significant because,
  1. The PD corps not only includes civilians from diverse backgrounds but also non-Koreans 
  2. This development is associated with the securing of a PD budget of nearly USD 5.99 billion; as per the report in the Global Post. Now this should easily be among the highest PD budgets in Asia reflecting the growing importance of soft power in managing international relations. Note that South Korea's PD program is relatively recent - 2010 was when it formally began.
  3. This also means coming together of the government and the people on foreign policy. Foreign policy can finally come down from its ivory tower of 'geo-strategy' & 'security' and acquire a human dimension - nations, after all, are an imagined community of people. Nations exist in people's minds and that's where foreign policy should begin. Quite interesting actually, something that I have been writing quite frequently in this blog.
  4. The South Korean experiment seems like an institutionalization of informal/formal citizen groups & networks by the government. Now this is open to debate since the possibility of co-option by the state may exist. 
I remember being a member of the Pakistan India People's Forum for Peace & Democracy (PIPFPD) as a student of Delhi University. An experiment in Track II diplomacy, initiated by prominent citizens, with blessings from the government it was complementary to the peacemaking efforts of the Government of India. Numerous such 'people to people' programs are currently underway in India and there is definitely a diverse network of civilian diplomats working behind the scenes.


 Is it necessary to institutionalize these into a civilian diplomatic corps? The PD division of the Government of India is already doing a stellar job of being the facilitator, bringing different groups together and trying out new things and a collaborative approach in foreign policy is definitely something new. Managing these informal networks of relationships in a collaborative fashion will significantly determine foreign policy outcomes in the future. What a time to be in PD!

Suggestions/Critiques welcome.

-- Madhur
 
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