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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)

Abstract

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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Notes

  1. 1.

    ODA encompasses resources provided by government members of the Development Assistance Committee (DAC) in the OECD. The resources are given to countries listed in the DAC recipients or multilateral institutions with the objective to promote “the economic development and welfare of developing countries” (OECD 2017).

  2. 2.

    In 2012, 81% of volunteers in the United Nations Volunteers Program came from the global South, and Chinese volunteering is also growing rapidly in sub-Saharan Africa (Ceccagno and Graziani 2016).

  3. 3.

    From the period 1945 to 1995, Korea received a total amount of US $12 billion in foreign aid (History of Korea’s ODA 2012).

  4. 4.

    In 2010 Korea was admitted to the DAC, becoming the 24th country that is a part of the 30 wealthy bilateral donors.

  5. 5.

    The study was approved by the Institutional Review Board; Study No. 2015-02-0098.

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Correspondence to Kyung Sun (Karen) Lee .

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Lee, K.S. (2018). Entitled to Benevolence? South Korea’s Government-Sponsored Volunteers as Public Diplomacy and Development Actors. In: Pamment, J., Wilkins, K.G. (eds) Communicating National Image through Development and Diplomacy. Palgrave Studies in Communication for Social Change. Palgrave Macmillan, Cham. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-319-76759-8_6

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