Why Social Media is Important to Public Diplomacy and the South Korean Embassy
Embassies exist to facilitate bilateral dialogue regarding cultural, political, and economic life, meaning that they are a perfect platform for connecting with the global community. In the new era of globalization and the Internet, social media is the most important tool that the Korean government must master and utilize to reach the international audience; in this way, they increase their influence in the world. Taehwan Kim in the Korea Observer states that the “emergence of the Internet and the virtual global space…as an open venue…is yet another outstanding feature of new public diplomacy” (533), outlining the numerous prospects that social media brings to the table for the future of public diplomacy of countries. To elaborate, consider how rapid the dissemination of ideas and discussion has become thanks to social media venues such as Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube; while each viral video shape the modern cultural trend of younger generations, viral posts expand the horizon of an idea’s influence because they can be viewed by someone from New York to someone in China in a matter of seconds. For embassies, this phenomenon is extremely significant, considering their role in foreign affairs. Social media can signify a new way to publicize policies that they implement, for example. According to the American Foreign Service Association, “Social media allows more people in more places than ever before to access such messages, and this has permanently reshaped how the State Department and other foreign affairs agencies organize themselves and staff their offices” (Smith). Likewise, social media has shaped how the Korean Embassy organize themselves, which is already evident in the fact that they invest some time each week to post on their Facebook page. Especially for South Korea, which is rapidly developing yet not considered a developed country, attaining a bigger global presence is vital; through social media, this goal can be achieved if the cards are played right.
Considering the advantages in cultural soft power that South Korea holds currently, social media is significant to the government because it is the most effective way to expand and sustain the Korean Wave. Although social media is utilized by both young and old, the younger generation is undoubtedly more active and sees more users. Additionally, fans of the Korean Wave are generally part of this younger generation; the K-pop industry targets the 10-30 age groups, for instance. Hence, it is evident that social media is the key to accessing the young international market for the Korean government, a method of reaching out to these people and increasing global exposure. Introducing the unique aspects of Korean culture to a bigger audience is also a key priority for Korea, since soft power is not always stable and the government should actively be seeking of ways to maximize the influence of the Korean Wave before it surpasses its peak and beings declining in popularity. Social media is the most viable option in this age and time for the Korean government to concrete their cultural soft power.
Furthermore, social media is important to the Embassy because of the social network that is offered; “while Embassies may at some level compete to represent their respective national interests, it is rarely a zero-sum proposition. As a result, there are many opportunities to collaborate and where a positive outcome for one Embassy is equally positive for another” (Gaida). Forming a network with fellow Embassies will not only facilitate discussion between different governmental agencies, but also can exchange successful aspects of their respective social media campaigns in order to improve their own.
Gaida, Jeanette. “Social Media in Public Diplomacy: Twitter and DC Embassies Part 2.” Take Five. The Institute for Public Diplomacy and Global Communication, 29 Apr. 2013. Web. 9 Mar. 2017. <https://takefiveblog.org/2013/04/10/the-use-of-social-media-in-public-diplomacy-analyzing-the-twitter-accounts-run-by-dc-embassies/>.
Kim, Taehwan. “Paradigm Shift in Diplomacy: A Conceptual Model for Korea’s “New Public Diplomacy”.” Korea Observer 43.4 (2012): 527-55. ProQuest. Web. 6 Mar. 2017.
Smith, Jesse. “Success and Growing Pains: Official Use of Social Media at State.” American Foreign Service Association. American Foreign Service Association, Jan. & feb. 2014. Web. 8 Mar. 2017. <http://www.afsa.org/success-and-growing-pains-official-use-social-media-state>.