Entitled to Benevolence? South Korea’s Government-Sponsored Volunteers as Public Diplomacy and Development Actors
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As a donor, South Korea presents itself as a former recipient of aid that has successfully transitioned to a donor country, emphasizing international development volunteering as an act of “giving back what we have received” based on shared understanding and respect toward the host. This chapter critically engages with first-hand accounts of former volunteers of South Korea’s government-run international volunteer program. Taking a critical approach to development communication, the chapter demonstrates how a volunteer relationship with the host is inextricably tied to the broader dominant imaginaries of development where development actors are legitimized and delegitimized along lines of nation, race, and gender. The author demonstrates how Korea’s narrative of development as linear growth and the assumptions of a hierarchical world order further contributes to self-consciousness of the volunteers’ inferior positionality. Positioned within such established imaginaries of development, their performative assertions of cultural identity only subjects the volunteers as spectacle. This, in turn, challenges positive and meaningful volunteer–host relationship-building.
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