Friday (November 5th): South Korean Soft Power: Hallyu

Moon Jae-in. South Korea
Moon Jae-in

Name? Moon Jae-in

Westphalian identity? South Korean

Age? 68

Why is he in the news? Well, he is not directly in the news, but Hallyu is. It started with Psy’s Gangnam Style and recently took off with K-pop bands such as BTS or TV dramas like Oscar-winning Parasite or the Netflix show Squid Game. Now Moon would like to benefit from Hallyu as well, especially politically and diplomatically. 

Why do we care? Because soft power is becoming increasingly important in a globalised world. Moon is now creating hard facts. He appointed the K-pop band BTS as his special diplomatic envoy who then performed at last month’s UN general meeting in order to appeal to the youth. Two years ago he even took a K-pop band to his visit to North Korea trying to impress Kim Jong-un, which apparently did not impress him as he recently banned K-pop as it is “vicious cancer”. 

Why should you care? South Korea’s potential to use soft power as a diplomatic (and economic) tool has increased massively over the past few years, and Moon knows this. However, there is barely a chance this will actually influence your daily lives. If anything it means more Korean content for you. Which is a great deal, but you should only care 1/10 about Moon attempting to use this.

Who else cares? China’s President Xi. China’s state-led attempts to achieve a similar cultural influence have not had significant results so far. At the same time, just like North Korea’s Kim, Xi is trying to minimise South Korean influence through video games, movies or music.

Any further comments? So far Hallyu has not significantly helped Moon in his foreign policy. If anything, it has served as a comparison for his dire prospects of reelection next May. A recently leaked diplomatic cable from the US said the Squid Game series reflected a winner-take-all mentality and South Koreans’ economic frustrations ahead of presidential elections.

Joshua Dario Hasenstab

General Coordinator