Tag Archives: week3

Survival Public Diplomacy: North Korea’s OGD and the Importance of Understanding Propaganda in Public Diplomacy

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Sin Son Ho, DPRK’s Special Delegate to the United Nations at the United Nations in New York held an unexpected press conference last week last week in which he called for practical measures to be taken to thaw tensions on the Korean peninsula in a direction to improve relations and reconcile national unity on the peninsula.

This very positive public rhetoric has left analysts guessing at it’s sincerity. Had this speech been given a year or two ago, analysts would be more optimistic than now. It is no secret that North Korea has the art of propaganda masterfully refined to a science, but what about their public diplomacy? With the sensationalism that occurs in mainstream media worldwide, coupled with North Korea’s untrustworthiness, the lines between fact and fiction are hard to decipher, but those who can do so are crucial to understanding this conflict.

In the past six months North Korea detained American Citizen Merrill Newman for “atrocities during the war”, purged the Uncle of their own leader, been infuriated by South Korean President Park’s world “hate tour” against them and the US Congress’ passing of a nine million dollar information warfare budget to be spent against them. Not to mention the fact that the international community has condemned their “basketball diplomacy” campaign, largely due to Dennis Rodman’s idiotic mentions of detained American Kenneth Bae who is sentenced to fifteen years of hard labor for “subversion to overthrow the State” with “Operation Jericho”.

To top it off, several slatternly journalists have created sensational stories such as the Unhasu Orchestra being machine-gunned to death, and Jang Sang Thaek’s execution being carried out by over a hundred starving dogs. This doesn’t help the credibility of western journalist anymore than it serves any positive purpose towards understanding why North Korea is the way it is and what it is really up to. To truly resolve the Korean conflict, the propagandists on all sides must learn how to report the facts and only the facts, communicate with transparency, and stop using information as warfare.

North Korea’s main objective is eternal survival and maintenance of their regime. Their propaganda often serves as the gatekeeper to their survival, as their isolation and information is their greatest weapon.In North Korea, it is not Kim Jung Un who is running the country, but a man named Cho Yun Jun, who’s job title is “First Vice Director with Chain-of-Command Over Organizational Structures” ,which is the number one position in the Organization and Guidance Department (OGD), which is the regimes institutional power that was set up by President Kim Il Sung during the founding of the regime to be the guardian of the regime, and to that effect, of “the throne”.

Jang Sang Thaeks purge was not a result of the flippant charges against him, which all North Korean’s are guilty of to some extent, but more of the result of the OGD using him as a pawn in their chess game to maintain state sovereignty after the failed 6.28 reform measures. They needed a scapegoat to push back the world against the thought that they were opening up.

Kim Jong Un may have wanted to reform the state, with Jang’s help, and many North Korean’s would like to see that happen, but as long as the OGD remains in power, no reform is possible. Kim Jong Un is nothing more than a symbolic figurehead. North Korea’s speech to the world about wanting peace is nothing more than a PR move to distract the world from their growing uneasiness at the external and internal behaviors of people who want reform badly. The speech should not be taken at face value, but as a sign that the regime is losing control. Hence the underlying reason for Kim Jong Un’s New Year’s Address which was focused on “Single Minded Unity”, which was a stark contrast from last years speech which was focused on “Idealogical Changes in Thinking Towards Progress and Education”.

This just goes to show the importance of understanding Public diplomacy and Propaganda in International Relations.

Ukraine: PD vs. Political Interference?

President Viktor Yanukovych’s decision to abandon closer ties with the EU in favor of Russia sparked anti-government demonstrations in Ukraine, dubbed EuroMaidan.

Ukrainian students from different educational institutions shout slogans during their march in Kiev, Ukraine, 26 November 2013. More two thousands students gathered for support of Ukrainian Euro integration in downtown capital as they declared a strike. EPA/SERGEY DOLZHENKO

When a bill was passed by the Ukrainian parliament on January 16th limiting the right to demonstrate, the protests took a violent turn. During the past week of unrest, three protesters have died in Kiev with over 300 injured.

Several German government officials have publicly voiced their opinions on the matter. German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier stated that he understood the views of the opposition, adding that “violence is not a solution, and we can say that to both sides.” German Chancellor Angela Merkel agreed. Merkel spoke with President Yanukovych recently to persuade him to revoke the recent bill. She urged Yanukovych to lead a real dialogue with the opposition to discuss political reform. Other officials from the EU and the US have made similar statements in favor of the anti-government protesters.

On the other hand, Russian President Vladimir Putin criticized the EU for what could be interpreted as “political interference”. According to Putin, the trips made by EU and US officials have only furthered the crisis in Ukraine. At an EU-Russia summit in Brussels on Tuesday, he stated “I can imagine the reaction of our European partners if, in the midst of a crisis in Greece or any other country, our foreign minister would come to an anti-European rally and would urge people to do something.”

From a public diplomacy standpoint, the EU and US officials have played a large role for the Ukrainian protesters. The protests have not ceased and could be fueled by these Western officials publicly voicing their support for the opposition. But this raises some interesting questions in regards to PD.  Are the actions taken by the EU and the US considered “political interference”, or is it public diplomacy?  How thin is the line between interference and PD? What is the difference between the two?

Why is Qatar spending so much money in the United States?

I thought I’d shift from my usual habitat of East Asia and look into something closer to home that sparked my curiosity late last year:

http://www.washingtonpost.com/business/capitalbusiness/qatar-foundation-to-open-cultural-center-in-citycenterdc/2013/10/15/c5ff7192-359e-11e3-80c6-7e6dd8d22d8f_story.html

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Construction at the CityCenter Project in downtown D.C.

 

 In short: The tiny Arab monarchy of Qatar is investing big in the United States, building a massive residential business complex a couple of blocks north of Chinatown and launching the U.S. edition of Al-Jazeera from new studios in Manhattan. Part of the new development in D.C. will be an office for the Qatar Foundation International, which will teach about Arabic language and culture.

 The big question that I think many will ask is: why bother? Why would a nation of 250,000 people (two million if you count non-citizens) put so much money into public diplomacy?

 One crude but valid answer is that Qatar has money to burn. Thanks to its location above the world’s largest gas deposit, Qatar has the world’s highest GDP per capita, sitting just above the $100,000 mark.  With that kind of money, dropping $650 million on D.C. real estate is not much of a big deal (and perhaps a good investment).

 However, I think a second element needs to be considered here. We focus a lot on how public diplomacy can be used to help achieve foreign policy objectives, but is it possible that a country’s image abroad could be not just a means, but an end unto itself? In the Middle East, different nations pride themselves on different things. Saudi Arabia is the custodian of the two holy mosques, Iran pushes to become the second Middle Eastern nation to have nuclear weapons.

 Without the population, land or overall size of economy, Qatar can never compete in areas like military might. So what can be known for instead? I think investments like Al Jazeera’s U.S. launch and the development downtown hint at the kind of nation that Qatar’s leadership wants to present to the world.

Transforming Arms into Art

Transforming Arms into Art

Throne of weapons. © Kester 2004

Throne of weapons. © Kester 2004

After the Mozambique civil war, millions of weapons left in the country. In 1995, the Christian Council of Mozambique started Transforming Arms into Tools project, which offered people farming equipment and tools in exchange for guns. Then a group of Mozambican artists turned them into sculptures.

I wonder this is a part of the ‘new’ public diplomacy Pamment describes.

Firstly, it says the project is supported by the Mozambique government. Exhibitions of the sculptures were held in twelve countries. Furthermore, I found that an exhibition came to Japan last summer, which was realized by a Japanese professor of African studies, who learned about this project and asked the artists to create new artworks to display.
In the BBC website, Carey from British Museum says the sculpture speaks the will to “overcome violence through practical and creative means which resonates with people at a personal and collective level.” Also, the article describes the sculpture, “unusually for such a commemorative piece,” it “speaks to us of hope and resolution.” Moreover, an audience of the exhibition made a comment on the website that he was so impressed that he’d like to help teach people to make sculptures in Africa.

According to Pamment, while the ‘old’ public diplomacy has been a “one-way flow of information”, a ‘new’ public diplomacy” is “two-way engagement with the public.” He also mentions that audiences are now “active and greater emphasis is placed on how they make meaning and how they feed back into the communication process.”

This project seems to have been quite successful in physically transforming the weapons into artworks, and changing the negative image of violence into peace. The project also generated two-way engagement of the public, which eventually brought new artworks to Japan, and might bring an audience to Mozambique to teach people to make sculptures.

Emi

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Other related articles I referred to:

-“Transforming Arms into Tools”, ALMA,

http://www.almalink.org/transtool.htm

-Mescla, the website of a furniture designer Carla Botosso, who have been involved in the projects.

http://www.mescla.dk/projects.html

-The article about the exhibition of the sculptures in Japan

http://ajw.asahi.com/article/behind_news/social_affairs/AJ201307110071

-“A History of the World: Throne of Weapons,” BBC

http://www.bbc.co.uk/ahistoryoftheworld/objects/97OnxVXaQkehlbliKKDB6A

Is Economy the New (Old) Game in Town?

This week I find it relevant to discuss the concept of economy as the new (or renewed) focus of public diplomacy initiatives. It is hard to forget Clinton’s famous ‘It’s the Economy, Stupid’ campaign slogan. Recently financial issues became particularly central to states’ rhetoric once again. Economy as public diplomacy strategy is broadly discussed in the course readings and in the media this week.

The first big economy and development headline this week was Bill Gates discussing his annual letter in interviews across media outlets. Gates focused on the importance of foreign aid and the great progress he sees the humanity making towards abolishing poverty and enhancing economic self-sufficiency.

Simultaneously big debates on economy are happening at the Annual World Economic Forum in Davos. One article at the Foreign Policy Magazine this week (http://blog.foreignpolicy.com/posts/2014/01/22/at_davos_developing_countries_advertise_themselves_more_than_companies_do) discusses few particularly interesting examples of how developing countries are trying to advertise themselves focusing on the economic opportunities they have to offer.

Finally Heng (2009) discusses the focus on economy and development as a leading public diplomacy strategy for Japan: “Japan sees its’ economic influence reflecting attractive values…Tokyo, in May 2008, doubled its aid targets to Africa by 2012.” (p. 290). China and Japan, along with many other states work to strengthen relations with developing countries and use strategic communication to portray themselves as trustworthy economic powers.

And so as the world remains affected by the financial turmoil, issues of economy seem to be a great prescription for effective public diplomacy strategy.

And if you haven’t seen Bill Gates promoting his letter virally, here is is: