A public diplomacy battle

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A public diplomacy battle

At 1 p.m. on Friday, I was at the American Center in Namyeong-dong, Yongsan District. Since it was founded in 1948, the center hosts forums and performances to promote American culture in Korea. After two months of renovation, the American Center was reopened. The 1,700-square-foot space was crowded with some 100 people. A little past 2 p.m., American Ambassador Mark Lippert appeared. In a speech, he said that one of the critical elements of the Korea-U.S. partnership was the exchange of citizens, and human relationships, through the Internet and other channels. Ambassador Lippert then shook hands and took photos with the attendees for about half an hour.

At 4 p.m., I was at the Chinese Embassy in Myeong-dong, Seoul. The high iron gate opened, and the embassy invited some 60 students studying Chinese at Hankuk University of Foreign Studies, Hanyoung Foreign Language High School and Singal High School. Chinese Ambassador to Korea Qiu Guohong said that the core of China’s diplomacy with neighbors was “friendship, sincerity, cooperation and tolerance,” with sincerity referring to trust among nations. He added that Korea and China trust each other sincerely. An embassy official said that the ambassador was scheduled to go to Yongin, Gyeonggi, but he had postponed it because he valued meeting with the students, and the attendees burst into cheers.

On Sept. 18, the U.S. Embassy and Chinese Embassy coincidentally engaged in an “unintended” public diplomacy competition. Most of the attendees were high school and college students. A foreign ministry official said that the two powers were trying to win hearts of Korea’s future generation, and Korean diplomacy needs to learn from them.

Those who attended the events had quite different impressions. Hankuk University of Foreign Studies’ Dean of International Studies Kim Bong-chul said that the event was small but took Korea-China relations to a higher level. Kim Ki-beom, a 25-year-old college student, attended the opening of the renovated American Center said that it was an America in Korea, and he liked the approach and would be more interested in the United States.

In international politics, national interests could make today’s friend tomorrow’s enemy. No one knows if the courtship of the United States and China will continue. Interests of neighboring countries are changing every minute, and the focus of Korea’s foreign policy should change accordingly. The security law in Japan is leading Northeast Asia into turmoil. The public diplomacy of Ambassadors Lippert and Qiu should be an accelerated lesson to solve the complicated diplomacy problem.

The author is a political and international news reporter at the JoongAng Ilbo.

JoongAng Ilbo, Sept. 21, Page 33


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