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Korean Power Beyond K-Pop



The Republic of Korea (South Korea) is well known for its audio-visual diplomacy that started in the 1980s with the end of the authoritarian regime. In 1999 the blockbuster movie Shiri earned $14million from 1.2 million Japanese cinemagoers alone shaped the South Korean interest to concern their effort to produce movies for foreign audiences.

There is this bond of Confucian values that connect East Asian countries beyond their political and historical differences. Korean soft power is linked with K-Pop which is extremely popular around the world. Two major Korean bands BTS and Exo both have a net worth above one billion dollars and many other K-Pop bands are worth millions of dollars.

South Korea is very well known for its K-Pop but as the majority of people around the world do not speak the Korean language it continues to suffer due to its linguistic barrier. K-Pop program has been organized in Pyongyang but the K-Pop remains a haunting experience for the hermit kingdom as it would destroy the legitimacy of the North Korean (Democratic People’s Republic of Korea) regime.  K-Pop is powerful but this also has its limitation.

South Korea is respected for the miracle of the Han river via its ability to transform from an underdeveloped country to a highly industrialized state. The transformation from rags to riches has inspired many developing countries. South Korea’s greatest strength is its economic might as it can fund various activities.

South Korea has been heavily industrialized with companies likes Samsung, Hyundai, and LG that contribute to creating a brand image of South Korea as a reliable technological powerhouse and provide an export revenue of $617 billion in 2018.

Soft Resources could be analyzed using the five sense organs as a medium of diplomacy.
Gastrodiplomacy includes Korean cuisine including Ginseng tea, Gimbap, and Kimchi. These food and drinks are playing a significant role in spreading the fame of Korea with its flavor and aroma of food.

Kimchi is a part of the Korean identity. Kimjang the Kimchi-making process is inscribed in 2013 on Representative List for the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity in UNESCO. A culture of seasoning and fermenting food has a deep cultural connection with its members and beyond its national borders.

South Korea in a total has 20 elements inscribed as intangible heritages. This includes audio-based soft resource such as Arirang lyrical folk songs, Gagok lyrical song cycles accompanied by Orchestra, Pansori epic chant and audio-visual soft resources includes Nongak community band music, dance, and rituals, Ganggangsullae where young unmarried girls sing and dance, Yeongsanjae a re-enactment of Buddha delivering the lotus sutra are to name only a few of its intangible heritage that projects Korea to be a culturally rich peninsula.

These soft power resources could attract tourism in a certain period of the year but travelers could always enjoy sight-seeing of tangible heritage which could be photographed and create a strong visual memory that contributes to its visual diplomacy.

South Korea has a large pool of 14 World Heritage Sites with 13 cultural sites and 1 natural site. The World Heritage Site includes tombs of kings, funerary monuments, palaces, artworks, literature, historic villages, fortresses, city, academy, Buddhist, and secular architecture. It provides a blend of very distinct spaces which would allow the travelers and tourist to enjoy various sites of South Korea which will indirectly motivate the visitors to absorb societal norms of Korea.

In 2018, South Korea made $19.86 billion from tourism and is ranked 16th by World Economic Forum for Travel and Tourism Competitiveness Report 2019, as a result, there remains a real motivation to preserve and promote its cultural heritage which as a bonus would increase its national prestige.

One of the most powerful tools that connect people beyond borders would be Korean Martial Arts- Taekwondo. South Korea maintains the top spot in Taekwondo with 19 Olympics medals out of its total 337 medals.

In 1962, South Korea had sent trainers to train Taekwondo in South Vietnam which has helped to create a stronger bond between the two militaries and build military diplomacy.

World Taekwondo claims they have less than 1.5 million to 2 million existing members with a yearly income of around 1 million with a net profit of USD 439,570.37 in 2018.

Taekwondo in Korea is promoted in three levels first by the President, second by the three government ministries (Ministry of Defense, Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism, and Ministry of Foreign Affairs), and third-level by various institutions (Kukkiwon, WTF, Korean Sports and Olympic Committee, Korean T’aeg wondo Association). These efforts indicate that the Korean government takes soft power extremely seriously.

Taekwondo allows countries to play with developed countries in equal fields respecting the concept of sovereign equality and it even helps North Korea to open itself up by participating in sport and even collaborate with South Korea.

South Korea even has paid bills of $2.6 million for North Korea for its participation in the Pyeongchang Winter Olympics in 2018. The amount may be a big deal for North Korea but the South Korean bands are much richer than the total expenditure the North Korean authorities received in form of aid.

Taekwondo is one of the soft power resources of South Korea. South Korea has more gold medals in Short Track and Archery than in Taekwondo and in total has won medals in 26 sports.

Traditional Korean Martial Arts-Taekkyeon, and traditional Korean wrestling-Ssireum are both listed as intangible heritages that contributed to building a culture for physical sports.

South Korea’s soft power is generally surrounding the Hallyu also known as the Korean wave. However, South Korea is extremely rich even beyond the well-loved K-Pop, K-Drama, and Taekwondo.

Soft power has been seen as ambiguous, confusing, complicated, and it’s assumed to be difficult to be calculated. However, we could easily look at the net worth of each ingredient by the revenue it could produce.

Power is a very complex idea. The power which can generate revenue and sustain itself will be valued more in the long run.

Soft Power Resources such as Martial Arts can be used for both peaceful purposes such as sports diplomacy or be used even be converted to enhance its military diplomacy.

Public diplomacy should not always be a one-way flow from a viewer to the audience but a two-way flow as communication happen during the feast, martial arts tournaments that create interaction and build connection beyond the state’s borders. 

Kripendra Amatya is a social activist, artist, and writer. He has contributed articles in various national and international outlets that include SABRI magazine, Aperion review, The Diplomat Magazine, He completed his Master in International Relations from Jilin University, China.

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Biden-Putting meeting: Live from Geneva



19:00 The places of the flags on the Mont Blanc bridge on which President Biden and President Putin will pass to reach the meeting venue on Wednesday usually hold the flags of the different Swiss cantons. Not today. The American and Russian flags have been placed to welcome the two leaders. 

18:00 A day before the Geneva summit: Hotel Intercontinental where the American delegation and probably President Biden himself is staying, how the city looks like a day before the meeting, what are the security measures like, why isn’t the UN involved and are the usual protests expected?

Iveta Cherneva with live video political commentary from Geneva one day ahead of the Biden-Putin Summit

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Will the promotion of cricket in GCC add to its Soft Power?



In recent years, Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) countries, have been trying to bolster their ‘Soft Power’ in a number of ways; by promoting tourism, tweaking their immigration policies to attract more professionals and foreign students and focusing on promoting art and culture. The United Arab Emirates (UAE) has taken the lead in this direction (in May 2017, UAE government set up a UAE Soft Power Council which came up with a comprehensive strategy for the promotion of the country’s Soft Power). Under Crown Prince Mohammad Bin Salman (MBS), Saudi Arabia has also been seeking to change its international image, and it’s Vision 2030 seeks to look beyond focusing on economic growth. In the Global Soft Power Index 2021, Saudi Arabia was ranked at number 24 and number 2 in the Gulf region after the UAE (the country which in the past had a reputation for being socially conservative, has hosted women’s sports events and also hosted the G20 virtually last year)

Will the promotion of cricket in GCC add to its Soft Power?

   One other important step in the direction of promoting Soft Power in the GCC, is the attempt to popularize cricket in the Gulf. While the Sharjah cricket ground (UAE)  hosted many ODI (One Day International )tournaments, and was witness to a number of thrillers between India and Pakistan, match fixing allegations led to a ban on India playing cricket at non-regular venues for a duration of 3 years (for a period of 7 years from 2003, Sharjah did not get to host any ODI). The Pakistan cricket team has been playing its international home series at Sharjah, Abu Dhabu and Dubai for over a decade (since 2009) and the sixth season of the Pakistan Super League is also being played in UAE. Sharjah has also hosted 9 test matches (the first of which was played in 2002).

 Sharjah hosted part of the Indian Premier League (IPL) tournament in 2014, and last year too the tournament was shifted to UAE due to covid19 (apart from Sharjah, matches were played at Dubai and Abu Dhabi). This year again, the UAE and possibly Oman are likely to host the remaining matches of the IPL which had to be cancelled due to the second wave of Covid19. The ICC Men’s T20 World Cup to be held later this year (October-November 2021), which was actually to be hosted by India,  could also be hosted not just in the UAE, but Oman as well (there are two grounds, one of them has floodlights). International Cricket Council (ICC) is looking for an additional venue to UAE, because a lot of cricket is being played there, and this may impact the pitches. The ICC while commenting on the possibility of the T20 World cup being hosted in the Middle East said:

, “The ICC Board has requested management [to] focus its planning efforts for the ICC Men’s  T20 World Cup 2021 on the event being staged in the UAE with the possibility of including another venue in the Middle East’

GCC countries are keen not just to host cricketing tournaments, but also to increase interest in the game. While Oman has a team managed by an Indian businessman, Saudi Arabia has set up the SACF (Saudi Arabian Cricket Federation) in 2020 and it has started the National Cricket Championship which will have more than 7,000 players and 36 teams at the school level. Peshawar Zalmi, a Pakistani franchise T20 cricket team, representing the city of Peshawar the capital of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, which plays in the Pakistan’s domestic T20 cricket league – the Peshawar cricket league —  extended an invitation to the SACF, to play a friendly match against it. It’s owner Javed Afridi had extended the invitation to the Saudi Arabian team in April 2021.  Only recently, Chairman of SACF Prince Saud bin Mishal  met with India’s Ambassador to Saudi Arabia, Dr Ausaf Saeed, to discuss ways for promoting the game in Saudi Arabia. He also visited the ICC headquarters at Dubai and apart from meeting officials of ICC also took a tour of Sharjah cricket ground.

GCC countries have a number of advantages over other potential neutral venues. First, the required infrastructure is already in place in some countries, and there is no paucity of financial resources which is very important. Second, there is a growing interest in the game in the region, and one of the important factors for this is the sizeable South Asian expat population. Third, a number of former cricketers from South Asia are not only coaching cricket teams, but also being roped in to create more enthusiasm with regard to the game. Fourth, UAE along with other GCC countries, could also emerge as an important venue for the resumption of India-Pakistan cricketing ties.


In conclusion, if GCC countries other than UAE — like Saudi Arabia and Oman  — can emerge as important cricketing venues, their ‘Soft Power’ appeal is likely to further get strengthened especially vis-à-vis South Asia. South Asian expats, who have contributed immensely to the economic growth of the region, and former South Asian cricketers will have an important role to play in popularizing the game in the Gulf. Cricket which is already an important component of the GCC — South Asia relationship, could help in further strengthening people to people linkages.

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Analyzing the role of OIC




Composed of fifty-seven countries and spread over four continents, the Organization of Islamic Conference (OIC) is the second-largest intergovernmental body following the United Nations (UN). And it is no secret that the council was established in the wake of an attack on the Al-Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem. Safeguarding and defending the national sovereignty, independence, and territorial integrity of its member states is the significant provision of the OIC’s charter. OIC charter also undertakes to strengthen the bond of unity and solidarity among member states. Uplifting Islamic values, practicing cooperation in every sphere among its members, contributing to international peace, protecting the Islamic sites, and assisting suppressed Muslim community are other significant features of its charter. 

Recently, the world witnessed the 11-days long conflict between Hamas and Israel. In a recent episode of the clash between two parties, Israel carried out airstrikes on Gaza, claiming many innocent Palestinian lives. The overall death toll in the territory rose to 200, including 59 children and 35 women, with 1305 injured, says Hamas-run health ministry. This event was met with resentment from people across the world, and they condemned Israeli violence. After 11 days of violence, the Israeli government and Hamas agreed to a ceasefire. The event of Israeli violence on Palestinians has called the role of OIC into question. The council, formed in the aftermath of the onslaught on Al-Aqsa mosque, seemed to adopt a lip service approach to the conflict. However, the call for stringent measures against Israeli aggression by the bloc was not part of its action. 

Likewise, the Kashmir issue, which has witnessed atrocities of Indians on innocent Kashmiris, looks up to the OIC for its resolution. Last year, during the 47th session of the Council of Foreign Ministers (CFM) in Niamey, Niger, the CFM reaffirmed its strong support for the Kashmir cause. The OIC categorically rejected illegal and unilateral actions taken by India on August 5 to change the internationally recognized disputed status of the Indian Illegally Occupied Jam­mu and Kashmir and demanded India rescind its illegal steps. However, the global community seems to pay deaf ears to the OIC’s resolution. The Kashmir issue and the Palestine issue are the core issues of the world that are witnessing the worst humanitarian crisis. And the charter of the bloc that aims to guard the Muslim ummah’s interest rings hollow. About a year ago, the event that made rounds on electronic and social media was the occurring of the KL summit, which reflected another inaction of the OIC. The move of influential Muslim countries (Iran, Turkey, and Indonesia), to sail on the idea to establish another forum to counter the OIC, manifested the rift in the bloc.  

Many OIC countries are underdeveloped and poorly governed and are home to instability, violence, and terrorism. The consequences of the violence and terrorism in the OIC countries have been devastating. According to Forbes, 7 out of 10 countries, which suffer most from terrorism are OIC members. The Syrian conflict is another matter of concern in the Mideast, looking up to OIC for a way out. An immense number of people have lost their lives in the Civil war in Syria.

Several factors contribute to the inefficiency of the bloc. The first and foremost reason is the Saudi-Iran stalemate. Influential regional powers (Iran and the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia) in the Mideast share strained links following the Islamic Revolution in Iran. Both sides dissent each other on many fronts. Saudi Arabia accuses Tehran of interfering in its internal affairs, using terrorism as a tool to intimidate neighbors, fuelling sectarianism, and equipping proxies to de-stabilize and overthrow the legitimate government. Locked in a proxy war in the Mideast, the KSA and Iran vie for regional dominance. Moreover, Iran’s nuclear program is met with strong resentment in the KSA since it shifts the Balance of Power towards Iran. Such developments play a vibrant role in their stalemate, and the bloc’s effectiveness is hostage to the Saudi-Iran standoff.

Political and social exclusion in many OIC states is the norm of the day, contributing to upheaval and conflict. In OIC countries, the level of political participation and political and social integration is weak. This fact has rendered OIC countries vulnerable to unrest. Arab Spring in 2011 stands as the best example. Furthermore, conflicts, since the mid-1990s, have occurred in weak states that have encountered unrest frequently. 

Saudi Arabia has tightened its grip on the OIC. The reason being, the OIC secretariat and its subsidiary bodies are in the KSA. More importantly, the KSA’s prolific funding to the bloc enhances its influence on the bloc. One example includes, in the past, the KSA barred an Iranian delegation from the OIC meeting in Jeddah. Saudi authorities have not issued visas for the Iranian participants, ministry spokesman, says Abbas Mousavi. “The government of Saudi Arabia has prevented the participation of the Iranian delegation in the meeting to examine the deal of the century plan at the headquarters of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation,” Mousavi said, the Fars news agency reported. Given the Iranian growing influence and its access to nuclear capabilities, the KSA resorted to using financial leverage to reap support from Arab countries against Iran. For instance, in past, Somalia and several other Arab states such as Sudan and Bahrain received a commitment of financial aid from Saudi Arabia on the same day they cut ties with Iran. Furthermore, the summits of OIC, GCC, and Arab League are perceived as an effort by Saudi Arabia to amass support against Tehran. 

Division in the Muslim world and their clash of interests is yet another rationale behind its inefficacy. These days, many Muslim countries are bent on pursuing their interests rather than paying commitment to their principles, that is, working collectively for the upkeep of the Muslim community. Last year, the governments of Israel and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) announced that they had agreed to the full normalization of relations. Following this, the Kingdom of Bahrain became another Muslim country to normalize its links with Israel. Such moves by the Islamic countries weaken the OIC agenda against Israel. 

OIC’s efficacy would be a distant dream unless the Saudi-Iran deadlock finds its way. For this purpose, Pakistan can play a vital role in mediating between these two powers. Pakistan has always been an active player in the OIC and played its role in raising its voice against Islamophobia, Palestine Issue, and the Kashmir issue. Shunning their interests and finding the common goals of the Muslim ummah, should be the utmost priority for the members of the bloc. Every OIC member ought to play its part in the upkeep of the bloc. Furthermore, a split in the bloc should come to an end since it leads to the polarization of member states towards regional powers. Many OIC countries are rich in hydrocarbons (a priceless wealth, which is the driver for the growth of a country); if all OIC members join hands and enhance their partnership in this sphere they can fight against energy security. And OIC is the crux for magnifying cooperation among its member states to meet their energy needs.

In this era of globalization, multilateralism plays a pivotal part. No one can deny the significance of intergovernmental organizations since they serve countries in numerous ways. In the same vein, OIC can serve Muslim ummah in multiple ways; if it follows a course of adequate functioning.

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