Knowledge Diplomacy as an Instrument of South Korea’s Foreign Policy: Theoretical Aspects and Practical Implementation in the Case of KOICA Scholarship Program

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The relevance of this study derives from the limited understanding of the mechanisms of public diplomacy that are activated when scholarship programs for international students are conducted by East Asian countries, particularly South Korea. Moreover, the relevance of the topic is also determined by the scarcity of research on the role of knowledge in public diplomacy mechanisms. The author of this article analyzes South Korea’s international student exchange scholarship program, the KOICA Scholarship Program. This case study analyzes the contents of official documents adopted by the Government of the Republic of Korea, documents and materials published by subordinate organizations that administer scholarship programs for international students, as well as scholarly papers on the topic of knowledge diplomacy and related topics. The novelty element is that the concept of knowledge diplomacy, which is gaining popularity worldwide almost has not been used in the Russophone academia, and the studies on South Korean exchange programs as public diplomacy instruments are also poorly represented. The analysis of official documents has shown that the concept of knowledge in the official Korean interpretation differs from the existing academic interpretations accepted in the West (e.g., Great Britain, the United States). Also, the analysis of the scholarship program showed that it only partly complies with the knowledge diplomacy goals assigned by the Government. In particular, through this scholarship Korea successfully transmits knowledge about Korean history and culture, as well as professional knowledge, while the field of knowledge exchange in the program remains unattained. The author concludes with several practical recommendations on how to improve the effectiveness of the scholarship program as a tool for knowledge diplomacy.

About the authors

Eriks Varpahovskis

National Research University Higher School of Economics

Author for correspondence.
ORCID iD: 0000-0002-6740-6377
Moscow, Russian Federation

Ph.D. in Political Science from the Hankuk University of Foreign Studies (South Korea), postdoctoral fellow at the School of International Regional Studies


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