Public Diplomacy, Soft Power and Language: The Case of the Korean Language in Mexico City


Public Diplomacy (PD) is the third pillar of South Korean foreign policy. According to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, PD aims to attract foreign audiences by means of art, knowledge transmission, media, language and foreign aid. When it comes to the Korean language, its global profile has seen an especially marked increase in recent years (Kim, 2009). Thus, this paper's objective is to explain the relevance of the Korean language in the generation of South Korea's soft power. I draw from $C{\acute{e}}sar$ Villanueva's reflections in order to problematize how language promotion can be translated into soft power at five different levels: the empathetic, the sympathetic, the geopolitical, the diplomatic and the utilitarian. I observe that in the case of the Korean language in Mexico City, soft power has the potential to be generated on three levels: it helps to increase knowledge of Korean culture (empathetic); it exercises symbolic persuasion (geopolitical), since the products of cultural industries are mostly in Korean; and it is used as a tool for economic transactions in Mexico City (utilitarian).



  1. Anderson, B. (1993). Comunidades imaginadas. Reflexiones sobre el origen y la difusion del nacionalismo. Mexico City: Fondo de Cultura Economica.
  2. Armour, W. S. (2011). Learning Japanese by reading "manga": The rise of "soft power pedagogy". RELC Journal, 42(2), 125-140.
  3. Armour, W. S. (2015). The Geopolitics of Japanese Sotf Power and the Japanese Language and Studies Classroom: Soft Power Pedagogy, Globalization, and the New Technologies. En I. Nakane, E. Otsuji, & W. S. Armour (Eds.), Language and Identities in a Transitional Japan: from Internationalization to Globalization. New York: Routledge.
  4. Ayhan, K. (In Press). The Boundaries of Public Diplomacy and Non-State Actors: A Taxonomy of Perspectives. International Studies Perspective.
  5. Ayhan, K. (2017). Korea's Soft Power and Public Diplomacy Under Moon Jae-In Administration: A Window of Opportunity. En K. Ayhan (Ed.), Korea's Soft Power and Public Diplomacy (pp. 13-32). Seoul: Ministry of Foreign Affairs-Hangang Network.
  6. Choi, J., & Maliangkay, R. (Eds.). (2015). K-Pop: The International Rise of the Korean Music Industry. New York: Routledge.
  7. Cull, N. (2006). Public Diplomacy before Gullion: The evolution of a Phrase. Retrieved from
  8. Fuhr, M. (2016). Globalization and Popular music in South Korea: Sounding Out K-Pop. New York: Routledge.
  9. Gao, F. (2010). Learning Korean language in China: motivations and strategies of non-Koreans. International Journal of Bilingual Education and Bilingualism, 13(3), 273-284.
  10. Hall, I. (2012). India ' s New Public Diplomacy. Asian Survey, 52(6), 1089-1110.
  11. Hill, D. T. (2016). Language as "soft power" in bilateral relations: the case of Indonesian language in Australia. Asia Pacific Journal of Education, 36(3), 364-378.
  12. Hong, E. (2014). The Birth of Korean Cool: how a nation is conquering the world through pop culture. New York: Picador.
  13. Huh, T.-W. (2012). The Republic of Korea's Public Diplomacy as a Policy Tool of Softpower. CPD, 3(2).
  14. ICCR. (2018). ICCR's Centres Abroad. Retrieved from
  15. Jin, D. Y., & Yoon, K. (2016). The social mediascape of transnational Korean pop culture: Hallyu 2.0 as spreadable media practice. new media & society, 18(7), 1277-1292.
  16. Kim, H. (2009, septiembre 11). The Growing Popularity of the Korean Language. The Chosun Ilbo. Retrieved from
  17. Kim, H. (2017). Bridging the Theoretical Gap between Public Diplomacy and Cultural Diplomacy. The Korean Journal of International Studies, 15(2), 293-326.
  18. Kim, K. H., & Choe, Y. (Eds.). (2014). The Korean Popular Culture Reader. Durham: Duke University Press.
  19. King Sejong Institute Foundation. (2017). King Sejong Institute. Retrieved from
  20. KOCIS. (2018). Korean Culture and Information Service. Retrieved from
  21. Kook, J. H., & Nahm, A. C. (2010). An Introduction to Korean Culture. Seoul: Hollym.
  22. Korean Cultural Center. (2018). Centro Cultural Coreano. Retrieved from
  23. Korean National Assembly. Act No. 13951: Public Diplomacy Act (2016). Seoul: Korea National Assembly.
  24. Lee, S. J. (2011). Korean Cultural Heritage. (S. J. Lee, Ed.). Seoul: Hankookmunhwasa.
  25. Lie, J. (2013). South Korean Literature in the Age of Korean Wave. Korea Observer, 44(4), 647-668.
  26. Melissen, J. (2005). The New Public Diplomacy: Between Theory and Practice. En J. Melissen (Ed.), The New Public Diplomacy: Soft power in International Relations (pp. 3-27). Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan.
  27. Miller, J., & Glassner, B. (2011). The "Inside" and the "Outside": Finding Realities in Interviews. En D. Silverman (Ed.), Qualitative Research: Issues of Theory, Method and Practice (Third edit, pp. 131-147). London: Sage.
  28. Modebadze, I. (2013). The National Language Image of the World and the Process of Cultural Globalization. Socialiniu Mokslu Studijos, 5(1), 101-109.
  29. MOFA. (2018). Public Diplomacy. Retrieved from
  30. Nye, J., & Kim, Y. (2013). Soft Power and the Korean Wave. En Y. Kim (Ed.), The Korea Wave: Korean Media go Global. New York: Routledge.
  31. Nye, J. S. (2016). El Poder Suave (Primera Ed). Mexico City: Universidad Iberoamericana.
  32. Park, E. (2017). Forward. En K. Ayhan (Ed.), Korea's Soft Power and Public Diplomacy (pp. 9-11). Seoul: Ministry of Foreign Affairs-Hangang Network.
  33. Ren, Z. (2012). The Confucius Institutes and Chinese Soft Power (No. IDE DISCUSSION PAPER No. 330). Japan.
  34. Sevin, E. (2017). A Multilayered Approach to Public Diplomacy Evaluation: Pathways of Connection. Politics and Policy, 45(5), 879-901.
  35. Suarez Castineira, M. L. (2013). Language, Power and International Relations: The Case of English in the EU. Challenges of the Knowledge Society, 3, 1096-1106.
  36. Thompson, I. (2015). Korean. Retrieved from
  37. UNESCO. (2014). King Sejong Literacy Prize. Retrieved from
  38. USC Center for Public Diplomacy. (2017). Speech by Enna Park at USC Center for Public Diplomacy. Los Angeles. Retrieved from
  39. Villanueva, C. (2007). Representing Cultural Diplomacy: Soft Power, Cosmopolitan Constructivism and Nation Branding in Sweden and Mexico (Phd Thesis). Sweden: Vaxjo University Press.
  40. Villanueva, C. (2015). The use of the Spanish language as a cultural diplomacy strategy for extending Mexico's soft power in the United States. Place Branding and Public Diplomacy, 11, 139-147.
  41. Wilkinson, S. (2011). Analysing Focus Group Data. En D. Silverman (Ed.), Qualitative Research: Issues of Theory, Method and Practice (Third, pp. 168-183). London: Sage.
  42. Yonhap. (2017, December 18). (Yonhap Interview) King Sejong Institute seeks more overseas branches. Yonhap News. Seoul. Retrieved from
  43. Yoon, K. (2017). Cultural translation of K-Pop among Asian Canadian fans. International Journal of Communication, 11, 2350-2366.
  44. Zhu, H., & Li, W. (2014). Geopolitics and the Changing Hierarchies of the Chinese Language: Implications for Policy and Practice of Chinese Language Teaching in Schools in Britain. The Modern Language Journal, 98(1), 316-329.