Entitled to Benevolence? South Korea’s Government-Sponsored Volunteers as Public Diplomacy and Development Actors

Part of the Palgrave Studies in Communication for Social Change book series (PSCSC)


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.


  1. Butcher, J., & Einolf, C. (2016). Perspectives on Volunteering. Nonprofit and Civil Society Studies. New York: Springer.Google Scholar
  2. Ceccagno, A., & Graziani, S. (2016). Chinese Volunteering in Africa. Annali Di Ca’ Foscari. Serie Orientale, 52, 297–333.
  3. Cowan, G., & Arsenault, A. (2008). Moving from Monologue to Dialogue to Collaboration: The Three Layers of Public Diplomacy. The ANNALS of the American Academy of Political and Social Science, 616(1), 10–30.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Creswell, J. W. (2013). Research Design: Qualitative, Quantitative, and Mixed Methods Approaches. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.Google Scholar
  5. Georgeou, N. (2012). Neoliberalism, Development, and Aid Volunteering. New York: Routledge.Google Scholar
  6. Grumcio-Dagron, A., & Tufte, T. (2006). Communication for Social Change Anthology: Historical and Contemporary Readings. CFSC Consortium, Inc. Google Scholar
  7. Grusky, S. (2000). International Service Learning: A Critical Guide from an Impassioned Advocate. American Behavioral Scientist, 43(5), 858–867. Scholar
  8. Hanchey, J. (2015). Constructing American Exceptionalism: Peace Corps Volunteer Discourses of Race, Gender, and Empowerment. In M. W. Kramer, L. K. Lewis, & L. M. Gossett (Eds.), Volunteering and Communication (Vol. 2, pp. 233–250). New York: Peter Lang.Google Scholar
  9. Hiebert, M. (1996). Money Isn’t Everything. Far Eastern Economic Review, 159, 62.Google Scholar
  10. Hiroshi, A. (1999, October–December). Japan’s Overseas Volunteers Make a Difference at Home, Too. Japan Quarterly, 46(4), 77–85.Google Scholar
  11. History of Korea’s ODA. (2012). Retrieved September 28, 2017, from
  12. KOICA. (2016). World Friends Korea: Statistical Report, 2015. Seongnam, South Korea: KOICA.Google Scholar
  13. Kondoh, H., Kobayashi, T., Shiga, H., & Sato, J. (2010). Diversity and Transformation of Aid Patterns in Asia’s “Emerging Donors” (Working Paper No. 21). JICA Research Institute. Retrieved from
  14. Lee, S. W. (2012, June 1). President Lee, “Volunteering is about Learning, Not Giving.” Yonhap News. Retrieved from
  15. Lindlof, T. R., & Taylor, B. C. (2011). Qualitative Communication Research Methods. Los Angeles, CA: Sage.Google Scholar
  16. Mawdsley, E. (2012). From Recipients to Donors: Emerging Powers and the Changing Development Landscape. London, UK: Zed Books.Google Scholar
  17. McAnany, E. G. (2012). Saving the World: A Brief History of Communication for Development and Social Change. Urbana: University of Illinois Press.Google Scholar
  18. McBride, A. M., & Draftary, D. (2005). International Service: History and Forms, Pitfalls and Potential (CSD Working Paper No. 05-10). Retrieved from
  19. Mueller, S. (2009). The Nexus of US Public Diplomacy and Citizen Diplomacy. In N. Snow & P. M. Taylor (Eds.), Routledge Handbook of Public Diplomacy (pp. 101–107). New York: Routledge.Google Scholar
  20. Nye, J. S. (2009). Get Smart: Combining Hard and Soft Power. Foreign Affairs, 88(4), 160–163.Google Scholar
  21. Nye, J. S. (2014). The Information Revolution and Soft Power. Current History, 113(759), 19–22.Google Scholar
  22. Nye, J. S. (2017, February). Soft Power: The Origins and Political Progress of a Concept. Palgrave Communications, 3. Available at SSRN: or
  23. OECD. (2017). Official Development Assistance—Definition and Coverage. Retrieved September 30, 2017, from
  24. Oh, C. (2014). The Politics of the Dancing Body: Racialized and Gendered Femininity in Korean Pop. In Y. Kuwahara (Ed.), The Korean Wave: Korean Popular Culture in Global Context. New York: Palgrave Macmillan.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Pamment, J. (2015). Media Influence, Ontological Transformation, and Social Change: Conceptual Overlaps Between Development Communication and Public Diplomacy. Communication Theory, 25(2), 188–207.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Pieterse, J. N. (2010). Development Theory. Sage.Google Scholar
  27. Roussel, L. W. (2013). The Changing Donor Landscape in Nicaragua: Rising Competition Enhances Ownership and Fosters Cooperation. Journal of International Development, 25(6), 802–818. Scholar
  28. Schiller, H. I. (1969). Mass Communications and American Empire (2nd ed.). Boulder: Westview.Google Scholar
  29. Servaes, J. (1999). Communication for Development: One World, Multiple Cultures. Cresskill, NJ: Hampton Press. Retrieved from
  30. Servaes, J. (2008). Communication for Development and Social Change. New Delhi, India: Sage.Google Scholar
  31. Shah, H. (2011). The Production of Modernization: Daniel Lerner, Mass Media, and the Passing of Traditional Society. Philadelphia: Temple University Press.Google Scholar
  32. Shin, H. (2009). Have You Ever Seen the Rain? And Who’ll Stop the Rain?: The Globalizing Project of Korean Pop (K-pop). Inter-Asia Cultural Studies, 10(4), 507–523. Scholar
  33. Singh, J. P. (2017). Beyond Neoliberalism: Contested Narratives of International Development. In A. Miskimmon, B. O’Loughlin, & L. Roselle (Eds.), Forging the World: Strategic Narratives and International Relations (pp. 134–163). Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press.Google Scholar
  34. Smith, M. B., Laurie, N., & Griffiths, M. (forthcoming). South-South Volunteering and Development. The Geographical Journal.
  35. Sontag, S. (1977). On Photography. London: Penguin Books.Google Scholar
  36. Sparks, C. (2012). Media and Cultural Imperialism Reconsidered. Chinese Journal of Communication, 5(3), 281–299. Scholar
  37. van Ham, P. (2010). Social Power in International Politics. Oxon, England: Routledge.Google Scholar
  38. Walz, J., & Ramachandran, V. (2011). Brave New World: A Literature Review of Emerging Donors and the Changing Nature of Foreign Assistance (Center for Global Development Working Paper 273). Retrieved from
  39. Wilkins, K. G. (2000). Accounting for Power in Development Communication. In K. G. Wilkins (Ed.), Redeveloping Communication for Social Change: Theory, Practice, and Power (pp. 197–210). Boulder, CO: Rowman & Littlefield.Google Scholar
  40. Woods, N. (2008). Whose Aid? Whose Influence? China, Emerging Donors and the Silent Revolution in Development Assistance. International Affairs, 84(6), 1205–1221. Scholar
  41. Yin, R. K. (2003). Case Study Research: Design and Methods (3rd ed.). Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.Google Scholar
  42. Zaharna, R. S. (2010). Battles to Bridges: U.S. Strategic Communication and Public Diplomacy after 9/11. New York, NY: Palgrave Macmillan.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  43. Zaharna, R. S., Arsenault, A., & Fisher, A. (2014). Relational, Networked and Collaborative Approaches to Public Diplomacy: The Connective Mindshift. London: Routledge.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.University of TexasAustinUSA

Personalised recommendations