The Making of a Nation's Citizen Diplomats: Culture-learning in International Volunteer Training Program

  • Lee, Kyung Sun (Department of Radio-Television-Film, The University of Texas at Austin)
  • Published : 2018.06.30


This study examines Korea's international development volunteer program as a citizen diplomacy initiative. Informed by a cultural perspective of transmission and relational models of public diplomacy, I examine the ways in which volunteer training incorporates cultural-learning into its program. The study finds that volunteer training is largely based on an instrumentalist approach to culture that places emphasis on learning the "explicit" side of culture, such as Korean traditional dance, art, and food as a strategy to promote the country's national image. In contrast, much less covered in the training program is a relational approach to culture-learning that is guided by a reflexive understanding of the "implicit" side of culture, or the values and beliefs that guide the worldviews and behavior of both volunteers and host constituents. Whereas the value of the volunteer program as a citizen diplomacy initiative is in its potential to build relationships based on two-way engagement, its conception of culture is mostly guided by that of the transmission model of public diplomacy. Based on the findings, this study calls for an integrated approach to culture-learning in volunteer training program to move the citizen diplomacy initiative forward.



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