The Foreign Ministry plans to spend 6 billion won ($5.7 million) on public diplomacy efforts this year as it seeks to improve Korea’s image abroad and better protect national interests in growing diplomatic feuds with Japan.
The 2013 budget approved by the National Assembly on Tuesday includes public diplomacy as a separate item in the government expenses for the first time.
The ministry was allocated slightly less than 2 trillion won in the budget, up about 3.2 percent from last year.
The newly allotted funds will chiefly be used to finance various outreach events and expand the workforce at embassies in cities without a Korean Cultural Center, ministry officials said.
International celebrities who serve as Korea’s goodwill ambassadors may be invited to experience local culture and build personal ties here, which could later influence their fans and boost the country’s image and tourism.
“We’ve been running like a mom-and-pop store because of a severe lack of budget and manpower. Five billion is not even a big amount given that it is going to be shared by 157 missions around the world,” a senior ministry official said before the bill’s passage on condition of anonymity.
Public diplomacy has emerged as a vital tool of statecraft as it helps promote foreign publics’ understanding of the country and eventually reach its foreign policy goals.
For Seoul, Korea’s pop music and TV shows have proved an effective channel but embassies and diplomats faced challenges in sponsoring a show with high-flying singers or other smaller cultural and language programs.
In contrast, China announced in 2009 that it would inject nearly $7 billion in a “global media drive” aimed at improving its image.
Japan’s public diplomacy machine is backed by the Japan Foundation, which operates a 32.6 billion yen ($378.8 million) budget annually.
Washington has also spent more than $15 billion on public diplomacy since 1999, according to the U.S. Office of Management and Budget. The Department of State’s public diplomacy outlays amounts to $507.4 million for next fiscal year that began on Oct. 1.
Meanwhile, Korea’s official development assistance will be scaled up by nearly 10.7 percent on-year to 566 billion won in line with the government’s efforts to take its commitments to the global levels.
The figure represents a 0.16 percent of gross national income. The ministry aims to jack that up to 0.25 by 2015, still far lower than the 0.35 OECD average.
A separate 4.2 billion won is assigned to fund the ministry’s overseas public relations drive to counter Japan’s claim over Korea’s islets of Dokdo.
That is a significant 82.6 percent rise from this year’s 2.3 billion won. Japan set aside 600 million yen in Dokdo-related ad and promotion spending for next year.
By Shin Hyon-hee (firstname.lastname@example.org)