As 'soft power' is becoming increasingly important, culture has risen as an indispensable element of a nation's competitiveness and economic resource that produces added value. To keep in pace with this changing global environment, the Republic of Korea (ROK) has adopted cultural diplomacy as a new pillar of the country's diplomatic makeup. In line with this, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA) carried out various cultural diplomatic activities with a view to upgrading Korea's national brand value and its prestige in the international community.
In order to strengthen and institutionalize cultural cooperation with other countries, MOFA concluded a Cultural Agreement with a number of countries and held Joint Cultural Commissions with foreign counterparts to discuss cultural issues.
A Cultural Agreement is a basic document for cultural exchange programs or youth exchange programs, which stimulates exchanges in the field of the arts, sports and mass media, among others. In addition, through Joint Cultural Commissions, MOFAT and its counterparts discuss bilateral cultural exchanges and mutual areas of interests in the cultural field.
MOFA is exerting its efforts to participate in international discussions on agenda setting and the standardization of cultural policies within UNESCO, a UN agency specializing in the areas of culture, education and science. Through such participation, MOFA seeks to enhance Korea's cultural prestige and successfully take part in major cultural policy agenda.
In order to enhance the understanding of Korea in foreign countries and to give support to foreign experts of Korean studies, MOFA established an affiliated organization, the Korea Foundation (KF), which specializes in cultural exchanges with other countries. The KF assists in creating professorships at foreign universities, sending visiting professors, and research on Korean studies, and also operates overseas scholarship programs including a fellowship program.
MOFA supports various cultural events overseas using the best use of Korean embassies. These events contribute to promoting the Korean culture to foreigners and enhance cultural relations with other countries.
In particular, MOFA holds diverse cultural events on special diplomatic occasions. For example, MOFA hosts anniversary events to celebrate the establishment of diplomatic relations between Korea and other countries, and these events help to strengthen bilateral partnerships and improve mutual understanding between the peoples.
MOFA also dispatches Korean performance teams and holds Korean art fairs and film festivals abroad via the Korea Foundation, an affiliated organization of MOFA, which helps to both enhance artists’ abilities to global standards and to promote Korea’s national image and Korean culture.
The overseas events invite not only local residents, but also government officials, businessmen, journalists and artists to enjoy Korea’s rich culture. In order to hold successful exhibitions and performances in the future, MOFA conducted surveys on the audience and embassy personnel to draw objective evaluations of the cultural needs in each region.
MOFA supports art exhibitions at diplomatic missions where the finest Korean artworks are displayed in order to promote Korean culture to foreigners and to enhance Korea's national image abroad.
MOFAT makes efforts to improve the variety and artistry of the artworks sent to Korean embassies and consulates by hiring artworks from the Art Bank of the National Museum of Contemporary Art (NMCA) starting in 2008, and supporting not only paintings but also Korean traditional crafts with the help of the Cultural Heritage Administration of Korea in 2009.
These exhibitions are expected to provide an opportunity for foreign visitors to enjoy an excellent selection of Korean artworks.
As a way of promoting Korea's cultural diplomacy, MOFA is exerting sincere efforts to promote international friendships and enhance the national image, through exchanges and cooperation in the field of sports.
MOFA is pursuing sincere efforts to host international sports events, which attract global interest and have economic spillover effects, thereby enhancing Korea's national brand.
Taekwondo, a core feature of New Hallyu (Korean Wave), remains popular throughout the world. MOFA, in cooperation with the Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism (MCST) and the Korea Taekwondo Association (KTA), dispatches Taekwondo masters and Taekwondo demonstration teams on an annual basis. In addition, Korean embassies abroad have exerted efforts to raise awareness of Taekwondo through Ambassador Cup Taekwondo competitions.
Since 2006, MOFA has continued to support overseas broadcasting of Korean TV dramas, one of the major driving forces of Hallyu around the world, especially in Africa and Latin America, where private broadcasters have found difficulties in gaining access.
In order to promote and increase the export of Korean films, which have already gained worldwide recognition, MOFAT has supported the screening of Korean films in major international film festivals such as the Berlin, Cannes, and Venice film festivals. In addition, MOFA has supported the international film festivals held in Korea such as the PIFF (Pusan International Film Festival), by encouraging overseas films, directors, and other professionals to participate in the festivals. Furthermore, MOFAT has successfully hosted Korean film festivals abroad through Korean overseas missions, promoting not only Korean films but also Korea itself.
In 2008, MOFA launched "Global Issue-based Cultural Events" as a means of advanced cultural diplomacy, aiming to raise the awareness of the international community as well as the Korean people on global issues. Following the first year on "poverty" (2008) and the second year on "climate change" (2009), in 2010, MOFA held cultural events on "Green-Growth," which was composed of two performances and an exhibition.