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Jean Lee on South Korea's Soft Power

On January 27, 2020 a group of Wilson Center experts gathered to discuss what's on the horizon in 2020 including economic, political, and security trends through the world.

As part of the second panel discussion, Jean H. Lee was asked to identify one of the most positive trend lines affecting the Korean Peninsula in the coming year.  Her response recognized the increasing power of South Korean entertainment worldwide, including the Academy Award nominations of the film Parasite.

It's been a year where South Korea has come into its own in terms of its soft power and I don't know if any of you have heard of BTS?...And a South Korean film has been nominated for the Academy Awards, first time ever.

It may seem like a small thing but this is the year that South Korea will perhaps be able to come out of the shadow of North Korea.  For so many years we've only thought of South Korea in relation to North Korea's a chance for them to step into their own and recognize that they have their own power to play a role in terms of soft power diplomacy. 

We have to recognize the tremendous strides that [South Korea] has made perhaps even in contrast to the different direction [of] North the 70 years since the Korean War. 

Many Koreans and ethnic Koreans will be watching the Academy Awards.  It may seem like a small thing but its an enormous thing in terms of South Korea's identity and it's feeling that it can stand on its own.

On February 9, 2020 Parasite made history as the first non-English to win Best Picture at the Oscars.  It was also honored for best international film, best original screenplay, and best director.


Jean Lee Image

Jean H. Lee

Director, Hyundai Motor-Korea Foundation Center for Korean History and Public Policy;
Journalist and former Pyongyang Bureau Chief, Associated Press
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Hyundai Motor-Korea Foundation Center for Korean History and Public Policy

The Center for Korean History and Public Policy was established in 2015 with the generous support of the Hyundai Motor Company and the Korea Foundation to provide a coherent, long-term platform for improving historical understanding of Korea and informing the public policy debate on the Korean peninsula in the United States and beyond.  Read more

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