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Engaging academics in public diplomacy

Apr 14,2017
On a rainy April day a small group of distinguished foreign professors met with the Ministry of Foreign Affair’s Public Diplomacy team, including Ambassador for Public Diplomacy, Park Enna. The team met at a museum in Seoul for a team building event with a taste of Korean culture and history and then moved on to a nearby restaurant for dinner and discussion. The goal for this group is to harness the knowledge and experience of foreign professors who have lived and worked in Korea for many years to help MOFA brainstorm for new ideas and ways to improve our outreach and other public diplomacy programs.

The restaurant where the meeting was held is called Dol Dahm, meaning rock wall. The naming of this expert group of scholars and diplomats is not just the name of the first meeting place, but a metaphor for the goals and hopes of this undertaking. Since traditional rock walls in Korea and elsewhere is East Asia are started by piling small rocks together and slowly building a bigger lasting structure, so too do we hope to start small and build a lasting relationship which can help improve Korea’s image and public diplomacy efforts. After all even the Great Wall of China began with a small rock wall and after much effort and labor turned into one of the most recognizable structures in the world.

The professors come from different backgrounds and academic specialities, but all have lived and worked in Korea for an extended period of time and have studied or taught in multiple countries. Now they are volunteering their time and experience to help MOFA develop new ideas and improve existing outreach efforts and programs.

By bringing a fresh perspective, combined with extensive personal experience in Korea, we hope to get constructive criticism and new ideas to improve our work — strengthening Korea’s image and helping to attract more interest abroad in learning about Korea as a country, along with its rich culture, language and heritage.

Ambassador Park shared a frank and productive discussion with the group, after introductions and sharing a meal together. Ambassador Park is an experienced career diplomat, one of the most senior female diplomats in Korea’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, having served multiple overseas tours in the United States, China, and other countries. She is hoping to focus on the younger generation, including foreign students in Korea, to ensure they have a positive experience in Korea during their studies and build long-term ties to this future generation of leaders and business people.

Hopefully this small event is the start of a long-term, mutually beneficial relationship which can help foreign professors to network and give back to the country many of them have called home for many years. Also, this is a way for them provide feedback and suggestions to help MOFA’s public diplomacy efforts.

It was a pleasure participating in this first event of our Rock Wall Club and I hope it continues to grow into a great wall of friendship between Korea and foreigners alike. I would also like to extend a deep appreciation for the dedication of this group, who traveled from regional universities in Ulsan, Taejon and Yongin as well as Seoul to meet with us and share their thoughts and suggestions. In the near future, we hope to expand and diversify the group and continue to broaden the base of our wall of academic expertise. Plans are also underway for a longer workshop, likely in June.

*Office of Regional Public Diplomacy at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs

Brian Peterson