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© 2019 Jeffrey Robertson

South Korea's digital diplomacy

Thursday, August 16, 2018

In January 2018, Bloomberg ranked South Korea as the globe's most innovative economy (Jung, 2018). In its most recent E‐Government Survey, the United Nations ranked South Korea as the globe's third most developed state for e‐government (United Nations, 2016). For the last 10 years, international organizations including the International Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) and the International Telecommunications Union have consistently ranked South Korea at the top levels (often number 1) for internet connectivity, internet speed, smartphone ownership, and social media usage.

 

For all intents and purposes, South Korea is a digital society. South Korea should be a leader in digital diplomacy—the application of digital technologies to the pursuit of diplomatic objectives, but it is not. Indeed, despite its impressive innovation and technology statistics, South Korea lags behind competitors in digital diplomacy.

 

The South Korean case draws interest as it suggests there is more to digital diplomacy than simply innovation and technology. What distinct challenges have prevented South Korea from adapting to digital diplomacy; what do these distinct challenges tell us about organizational adaptation to digital diplomacy; and could similar challenges also impact other states? The South Korean case could provide insight into the reasons some countries have jumped ahead, whereas others have lagged behind in digital diplomacy.

 

To answer these questions, I first explore digital diplomacy in the context of technology adoption in public organizations. I use an established criterion for technology adaption in public organizations to assess the case study of South Korea. I then propose four core organizational changes that could aid digital diplomacy adaptation in South Korea and other similar states. I conclude by commenting on how culture matters in digital diplomacy.

 

Read more in my article "Organizational Culture and Public Diplomacy in the Digital Sphere: the Case of South Korea" at Asia & the Pacific Policy Studies.

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