Understanding the Effectiveness of Public Diplomacy Efforts: Survey Data from the Case of Korean Higher Education Programs in German

Chang, HyeYoung / Moon, Chungshik / Rhee, Inbok / Yang, Joonseok

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Can public diplomacy efforts effectively change target country public’s perception of the sender country? Public diplomacy has been regarded as a means of promoting a country's soft power, and many countries have been exerted great about of effort and resources in this pursuit by building culture centers, promoting academic exchanges, or directly engaging the foreign public through various social media platforms. The empirical evidence on the effectiveness of such efforts in promoting more positive national image, however, has been relatively thin. This paper examines the impact of relatively under-explored yet important and widely used public diplomacy instrument, namely educational program, using the case of Korean Studies and Language courses in German higher educational institutions. By collecting original survey data from more than four thousand Germans including a sample of general public, general students, and students formerly exposed to the Korean Studies and Language courses supported by public diplomacy initiatives, we examine the baseline difference in general perceptions and domain- specific perceptions about South Korea and broader views on foreign policies by sample characteristics. We find that while the students formerly exposed to the Korean Studies and Language courses show more positive favorability towards overall Korean image as well as culutre and economy compared to others, they have a more negative disposition towards Korean society, politics, and diplomacy, handling of immigration issues, or the trustworthiness of the Korean government. Moreover, through a principal component analysis and regression analysis, we show that students formerly exposed to the Korean Studies and Language courses indeed hold a more positive perception about South Korea, and also document other individual level characteristics which are associated with such positive perceptions. Third, we also find some support that providing information about government-sponsored efforts – but not privately funded activities – can yield a more positive general perception abot South Korea. Yet, the same information about government engagement may backfire, when it is percived to be designed for promoting a greater understanding of Korea’s history, culture, language, and arts. Finally, narrowing our focus to the students formerly exposed to the Korean Studies and Language courses only, we provide a descriptive text analysis results confirming some of the conventional expectations about what people expect and desire to learn about Korea, and also some descriptive and indirect evidence regarding what drives negative perceptions about Korea.

Issue Date
KDI School of Public Policy and Management
Series Title
Development Studies Series DS 23-08
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