Monday, December 12, 2011

Edutainment: PORORO

It was interesting to see the last group's presentation about edutainment. As Melkote introduced at Theories of Development Communication, entertainment-education progrms are adapted as a tool for bringing social changes. The presentation also shows several examples with Mr. Pandarson's. Sesami Street maybe one of the most famous education show in the world. It was really interested that Sesami Street is used for AIDs/HIV education tool in Africa and it is great that they also offer the program embedding the local culture.

Likewise, Korea also has jumped into the edutianment industries. One of the most success program is 'Pororo'. This program is desinged targeting age between 1 to 5. It is so popular that most of single kids in Korea would know Pororo. Pororo is the name of main charater which is a blue penguin with glasses on. Kids do everything what Pororo says in the program. They admire the character. Pororo has a nickname 'Poresident'. 'Poresident (Po-tong-ryung in Korean) is a word combining Pororo and Presdient.

Pororo also earns a lot of money through its character. From snack, clothes, shoes, bag. Every products hit the success if they have Pororo character with. Parents also love Pororo because pororo is for their kids' education. It broadcasts every weekdays for 5 minutes. Pororo is a positive personality character. Pororo is a penguin which cannot fly but Pororo believes that he can fly someday. This is why this character always were the pilot cap and glasses on (with the red muffler which is a symbol of pilot!).

Pororo has exported to the world. Actually, when it was designed initially, it also targets the world. One of the reason why the characters are animals not people. The name was considered whether it has a negative meaning in different language. Actually, its first name was 'Poroporo' that was changed to Pororo after revealing Poroporo contains a negative image in French. It is interesting to see that all books Pororo reads are in English. Now Pororo is much more popular than Hello Kitty, Mickey Mouse, Winnie the Pooh in Korea but not yet in the world.

Additionally, I have read an interesting news regarding the relationship between FTA and Pororo. Recently, the Korean parliament had a big argument on Pororo whether it is one of items that export to US through FTA or not. The reason is that part of Pororo has been produced in Gaesung Industrial region in North Korea. Gaesung Industrial region is the place where South Korean's products were manufactured in order to help North Korea recovering their poverty. Since US do not allow any products which was made in North Korea imported, Pororo is also considered as a ban item.

Pororo also related to a diaspora which we have studied in the beginning of this semester. Few weeks ago, I met a Korean friend who immigrate to US and gave a birth in US for her 2 year old daughter. 2 year old little girl was watching You Tube through I Pad and I was amazed that I heard a familiar song from I Pad. It was Pororo song. I was asking my friend how come your daughter see the Pororo and she told me every single Korea American kids are watching Pororo everyday through You Tube.

It is also interesting for seeing a discussion for Pororo contents. This is a dialogue from You Tube that describes cultural differences between US and Korea reflecting Pororo show.

"I understand that weight is a very taboo subject in the US. But in Korea (where Pororo was created), it is normal to talk about someone's appearance. When you have gained weight, you friends and family will tell you. People say it's out of concern for your health. I think the last thing we need to do in the US is sugar coat the fact that someone is overweight. We need to address this serious epidemic. It starts with children. Not making them "insecure" but showing them a healthy body image"

Monday, December 5, 2011

Recognizing the Need of 'The Other'

I'd like to build upon the brief mentioning of "Postcolonial Approaches to Communication" and Edward Said's Orientalism and perhaps extend it to the more recent discussions on public diplomacy and strategic communication.

As Said noted, there has been a historical recognition of the West as a colonial and postcolonial power, including in academic thought. This has created an unbalanced view of Eastern thought by both West and East alike. Up until very recently, strategic thinking involved putting the Western ideals at the forefront of economics, politics, communication, science and other fields. Only with Said's insight has their been existential pondering of how this thought process affects both Western and Eastern societies.

Perhaps one of the most thought-provoking notions Said delved into was the concept of 'the other'. This is something we have touched upon in class before, as we have discussed the dynamics of how international communication applies to global governance, marketing and other relevant topics. In these cases, it can oftentimes be advantageous to conceptualize one culture/group/nation etc dominant or superior to another for purposes of enriching nationalism. Said brings up the fascinating prospect that 'the other' is an absolutely necessary concept - that one culture/group/nation etc cannot be dominant if it doesn't have a lesser, oppressed other.

This seems to make logical sense, but how does this play into international relations, especially public diplomacy? Public diplomacy, in its most glossy definition, is about forging relationships with other countries and working towards strategic partnerships. How are Western countries supposed to engage in public diplomacy with Eastern partners when they are actively immersed in scholarship that has historically framed them as inferior?

This dated approach is changing as we speak. As of late, there have been some strategic moves made by the United States regarding Asian countries and their rising power. One of the earlier markers of this movement was President Obama's decision to attend the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation Conference in Hawaii in November to meet with leaders in the Pacific Islands. Then, Obama ramped up efforts to secure American presence in the South China Sea by deploying Marines to Australia. This was seen as a major warning signal to China. Finally, these events have been complimented in recent weeks by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton's historic visit to Myanmar(Burma) in a diplomatic effort to reach out not only to the national government but to reformists as well.

These individual steps are amounting to what could be seen as a new strategy in Asia that hasn't been attempted before. For the first time, the US is recognizing Asian powers as a threat to their own space on the global stage and, after years of ignoring diplomatic efforts as a whole, are now reaching out to remain on top.

When comparing this to Said's notions on 'the other' and Orientalism vs Western thought, we could see these events in two different lights. This could be seen as the US finally nodding to Eastern countries as a competitor and casting thoughts of them as 'the other' away. However, I tend to lean on the other, more interest-based thought that the US is reaching out diplomatically in Asia in order to keep the suppression of Eastern influence going. In the macro context of Western vs Eastern thought, these "nice on the face of it" acts by the US may be well received in Western countries (and Eastern countries as well, given the previous discussion of Western concepts of Eastern permeating Eastern countries' considerations of themselves), but it is actually a strategic way of ensuring Western dominates Eastern.

Because China has yet to react to the moves the US is making, it will be interesting to see if they retaliate by flexing their own muscles against Western influences or if they quietly operate their own diplomatic strategies throughout the region.

The Internet and terrorism

In Khatib’s “Communicating Islamic Fundamentalism as Global Citizenship” that we read over Thanksgiving, he talks about the importance of the internet as a tool of communication for fundamental Islamic networks. He includes Al-Naeda, Al-Qaeda, Shareeah, the Taliban and Hamas as examples. Obviously, we cannot make the mistake of labeling all Islamic fundamentalists terrorists. But there are some that are terrorist organizations and many of them use the internet as one of their most crucial tools.

The Council on Foreign Relations said the number of terrorist websites increased over the last decade, from 100 to 4800 in 2007. It’s quite obvious that as global access to the internet increases, terrorist organizations are much more likely to use the internet to spread propaganda. They use propaganda to raise money, recruit new members and raise morale among current members. The internet makes it so much easier to spread this propaganda and reach readers/viewers no matter where in the world they may be.

Propaganda often comes in the form of videos of roadside bombings and executions. CFR said that in Iraq, it’s not just terrorists that watch these videos…it’s often the general public. These videos are also often sold at video shops, kept behind the counter with pornography.

Terrorist websites also function as training manuals, teaching how to make bombs, sneak into Iraq from abroad and shoot at American soldiers. Yet another reason the internet works so well for terrorism organizations is that it’s relatively secret and anonymous. And the terrorist organizations are often excellent at encryption, making things even more anonymous.

One fact that truly proves the prevalence of terrorist organizations on the internet is that al-Qaeda has had a position called digital media director. Ali Hamza Ahmad Suleiman al-Bahlul served in that position previously, but he is currently serving a life sentence in Guantanamo.

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Transparency of the Internet and Social Media

“Innovating Public Diplomacy for a New Digital World” by Jacob Comenetz looks at how the State Department has attempted to modernize its public diplomacy efforts by going digital. The article touches on several interesting ideas that we have already explored in class.

One part in particular that stood out was the discussion of doing away with the website. The reason given was simple. A website with static content assumed that curious people would visit the site. In reality, this is a world of information where people are constantly being bombarded with messages. Public diplomacy officers need to directly initiate conversations.  

Another idea that Comenetz raised is the discrepancy between the open messages on sites like Twitter and the subtlety necessary for international relations.  He quotes Clay Shirky about the problem of not being able to say the same thing to every audience. As we saw in the presentation on Global Movie Successes, the same cultural values do not resonate across the globe. The State Department could find itself in some sticky situations if public diplomacy officers are tweeting about ongoing controversial events.

Evgeny Morozov is another cautionary voice in the article. He is correct to warn that technology and social media should be exclusively thought of as forces of democracy. Social media are just as accessible to authoritarian regimes as they are to activists. Mexico is just one example of a country where social media are being used to suppress activism. Mexican citizens are being targeted by their government and drug gangs because of their online communication.

Comenetz also quotes Morozov as saying, “Clinton went wrong from the outset by violating the first rule of promoting Internet freedom: Don't talk about promoting Internet freedom.” I’m not exactly sure where he is going with this. The U.S. shouldn’t have to be shy about promoting Internet freedom. They are open about promoting values such as freedom of speech and democracy. Those values may not be agreeable with other cultures. But they are American values, and so America promotes them. Internet freedom is crucial for both freedom of speech and democracy, and therefore should fall into that category.

Social media can be anti-democratic. But so can any medium, really. Radio, television, and newspapers have all been used to promote things like racism. That doesn’t mean we shouldn’t use or trust them. And it certainly doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t talk about how to use or govern them. 

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Diplomacy Paradigm Shift to Public Diplomacy

As Joseph Nye pointed out projecting soft power for promoting positive images of one's country has been more than attracting countries to be democracies after the cold war. Actually, with the victorious success in US for last decade, almost half of state-nations adopt the democracy now. Along with emergence of new power such as BRICs, EUs, ASEAN so on, the world paradigm has been changed to multi-lateral power. This also illustrates that the power of public has been increased. In order to pursuit the foreign diplomacy to other nations, it is needed to be friendly to its national leaders as well as its publics. This tells why the new diplomacy paradigm named "public diplomacy" is required.

Korea has been developed its economy for last half-centuries and Korea reached to the 12th by purchansing Power Parity (PPP) and 15th by nominal GDP in the world. Now, Korea is seeking its way to be an active actor in the global politics. Korea hosted G20 summit in 2011 and be a member of DAC in OECD in 2010. Fortunately, the Korean culture also has been welcomed to the world. Especially to those countries in Asian region.

In the middle of the Korea's public diplomacy, the Korean Foundation ( actively held events that introduce its culture. Korea Foundation also provide a section named "Public Diplomacy." Mainly, it supports Korean research and studies overseas. For instance, KF funds to bilateral forum helding in overseas. One thing interesting here is that KF value the NGOs which actively involved in the diplomacy field. This is significant change because the Korean government has been so powerful and Korea has been top-down based operated country. To acknowledge NGOs in Korea is related to Joseph Nye's words that in transinational period, there is a borad range of alternatives such as NGOs, media, corportation, and so on. It is relatively short that Korea has been stepped into public diplomacy field comparing to China and Japan. China's Confucious Institute and Japan's Cultural diplomacy with its Manga and Animation are evaluated as good examples of public diplomacy.

The diplomacy has been extended from reaching to the leaders to reaching to the nation's public. As Joseph Nye said, role of credibility, self-criticism, and the role of civil society generating soft power as well as smart power in public diplomacy area.