China, Korea launch diplomacy forum

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China, Korea launch diplomacy forum

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Delegates from Korea and China take a commemorative photo at the first Korea-China Public Diplomacy Forum, held yesterday at the Plaza Hotel in central Seoul. [NEWSIS]

To follow up on a promise made by President Park Geun-hye and Chinese President Xi Jinping during Park’s first summit in Beijing in June, the inaugural Korea-China Public Diplomacy Forum kicked off yesterday at the Plaza Hotel in central Seoul.

Nearly 250 government officials, scholars, experts and members of the media attended the one-day forum, titled “Public Diplomacy Cooperation: A Meeting for a Journey to Build Trust,” hosted by the Korean and Chinese foreign ministries and organized by the Korea Foundation and the China Public Diplomacy Association.

The forum yesterday adopted a nine-point resolution to expand cooperation in public diplomacy between the two countries, including expanding youth exchanges, strengthening educational cooperation, research and language learning opportunities and encouraging communication between netizens and the media.

The resolution also recognized successful cultural and sports exchanges and encouraged an expansion in the cooperation between central and district governments as well as nongovernmental organizations.

Cho Tae-yul, Korea’s second vice minister of foreign affairs, used an opening speech to stress the necessity of public diplomacy, meaning diplomacy propelled by people rather than just traditional state-level diplomacy. “No matter how great a relationship two governments have, that relationship cannot last for long unless there is understanding between the peoples of the two countries,” he said. “Likewise, if civilian relations are good, even if there is tension between two governments, they can quickly recover amicable relations.”

Cho also commented on how half a century of frigid relations between Korea and China thawed after the countries established bilateral ties in 1992. “Twenty years ago that wall was broken, and we have healed greatly in terms of misunderstandings and differences in the perceptions between our countries,” he said.

China’s Foreign Minister Wang Yi also made opening comments, read by Ambassador to South Korea Zhang Xinsen.

“Through cooperation in public diplomacy between China and Korea, we hope to enhance the understanding between the people of the two countries to build a strong civilian foundation for a bilateral strategic cooperative partnership,” he said.

The Chinese delegation was led by Li Zhaoxing, former Chinese foreign minister and current president of the China Public Diplomacy Association, and included Tian Qi, acting director-general of the Chinese Foreign Ministry’s information department and Li Yonghui, dean of the School of International Relations and Diplomacy at Beijing Foreign Studies University.

Korea’s delegation included Ma Young-sam, ambassador for public diplomacy, Hahn Choong-hee, director-general for cultural affairs at the Foreign Ministry, and Yu Hyun-seok, president of the Korea Foundation.

During a session on public diplomacy policy, Tian Qi said the Chinese Foreign Ministry is especially aware of the power of Internet users in China, which has more than 500 million Internet subscribers and popular homegrown social networking services such as Weibo, the Chinese version of Twitter.

“Our target is to see how the government, enterprise, academics and the press can work together,” Tian said, to promote greater awareness for its people.

The forum had three sessions, discussing policies, the status and future of bilateral cooperation, and the development of projects in bilateral public diplomacy.

Hahn, head of the cultural affairs bureau, described Korea’s recent efforts to boost civilian participation in diplomacy, including the establishment of the Center for Public Diplomacy at the ministry in February.

The center is “a hub to link civilians and civic organizations with the government,” he said, that can “promote better synergy between the public and private.”

The ministry has encouraged young and elderly committees to promote public diplomacy and has appointed its first ambassador for public diplomacy.

He described the positive influences affecting Korea’s public diplomacy, such as its successful democratization, the creative energy coming from its pop culture, or Hallyu, its high level of education, and other forms of soft power, including language, traditional music, taekwondo, television dramas, movies and cuisine.

The forum was also made an annual event, with the next one to be hosted in Beijing in 2014.

“As President Park Geun-hye emphasized in her visit to China in June,” said Korea Foundation President Yu, “now is the time that Korea and China, representing Northeast Asia, have to expand their prospects based on the trust and bonds built between our countries.”



BY SARAH KIM [sarahkim@joongang.co.kr]

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