Toward a ‘charming Korea’Korea’s candlelight revolution surprised the world last year. Along with Brexit and Trumpism, it was one of the three pivotal events in the post-neoliberalism and globalization era.
Brexit and Trumpism were backward resets, returning to old ideas of protectionism, anti-immigration, unilateralism and exclusive nationalism to break from the new normal of low growth, polarization and instability.
In contrast, Korea’s candlelight revolution was a progressive reset integrating popular and representative democracy to form a new government and reform the nation with democracy, constitutionalism and pacifism.
Korea is going through a stormy time to eradicate its past ills and reform the nation. While a revision to the constitution is being discussed, local elections are scheduled for June.
I propose “charming Korea” as the vision for a new South Korea. Let’s make Korea more charming by adding sticky and social power to existing hard and soft power.
If hard power is military and economic — and soft power is represented by values, culture and technology — sticky is the addictive charm of attracting others, while social power means knowledge, information, communication, voluntary welfare, standards and rule-setting abilities.
The charm of a country is measured by national status, reputation, integrity, welfare, government service and national brand power. Korea’s charm plummeted with the power abuse of its past administration in 2016 but bounced back in 2017, along with France, after the candlelight revolution.
In the new year, Korea will become a country with a population of 50 million and per-capita national income of $30,000. Only five countries have more than 50 million people and per-capita income of more than $30,000: the United States, Japan, Germany, France and the United Kingdom. In 2018, Korea will become one of six advanced democracies to enjoy political liberty and economic abundance.
The fundamental force that will lift Korea to the group of six is qualitative economic growth. But as Korea hasn’t reached the level quite yet, it needs to focus on enhancing soft, sticky and social power.
We need to develop a high-quality, enviable democracy and make a country where people — not the nation — are well off, and lead the fourth industrial revolution.
We need to create content that inspires the soul in AI — that is, artistic and literary imagination. The United States has been able to establish IT hegemony through “Siliwood,” a combination of Silicon Valley and Hollywood.
Charming Korea should be a rich country generously sharing with poorer countries. It should protect democracy, be ruled by the people, love and make peace. It should be a country with beautiful culture.
Kim Koo, one of our founding fathers, wrote, “I want our nation to be the most beautiful in the world. By this I do not mean the most powerful nation. . . . The only thing that I desire in infinite quantity is the power of a noble culture. This is because the power of culture both makes ourselves happy and gives happiness to others.”
To make a charming Korea, we need to unleash a charm offensive. Pyongyang’s nuclear threats should be resolved, peace on the Korean Peninsula should be established and an economic bloc on the peninsula needs to be built. The northern diplomacy plan to create a hub in the vast Eurasian region stretching from the Korean Peninsula through Siberia to Europe has been lost due to the hard power rivalry among North Korea, the United States, China and Russia.
The escape from deadlocked northern diplomacy should be found in southern diplomacy. Using Korea’s charm, we need to establish a multilateral soft alliance with Vietnam, Indonesia, Cambodia, Malaysia, Myanmar, India, Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan and Mongolia. Then, Korea will have leverage over China, Russia, Japan and the United States and find a breakthrough to realize northern diplomacy.
To attain southern diplomacy, Korea needs to promote a diplomatic charm offensive through sticky power, including the soft power of Korean-style development and a democratic system.
Translation by the Korea JoongAng Daily staff.
JoongAng Ilbo, Jan. 1, Page 25
*The author is an emeritus professor of political science and diplomacy at Korea University.