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Dr. Marco Milani: Soft power or Hard Threat? The use of culture and cultural products in inter-Korean relations

In recent years, South Korea has developed an effective soft power strategy through the use of culture and cultural products for enhancing the country’s global influence and status. The so-called ‘Korean Wave’ – Hallyu – has significantly contributed to increase soft power and to support an effort of national re-branding, aimed at providing South Korea with a new set of attributes and characteristics on the international stage. The use of cultural instruments for foreign policy purposes also had consequences for what concerns its relations with North Korea. In particular, inter-Korean relations can be negatively affected in two areas by the development and spread of South Korea’s soft power. First, the circulation of South Korean cultural products in North Korea, which has significantly grown in recent years, could be perceived by the North Korean leadership as a sort of ‘cultural attack’, starting a process of ‘securitization’ of cultural products that can result in an antagonizing dynamic between the two Koreas. Second, the emphasis on specific characteristics of a ‘South Korean identity’ can undermine the process of inter-Korean reconciliation.

Marco Milani is Assistant Professor at the Department of Arts, University of Bologna. Previously, he has been Lecturer at the School of East Asian Studies, University of Sheffield, Postdoctoral Fellow at the Korean Studies Institute and Lecturer at the School of International Relations, University of Southern California. He also held teaching positions at the Hankuk University of Foreign Studies and had been visiting research fellow at the Institute for Peace and Unification Studies (South Korea) and at the Leiden Institute for Area Studies (Netherlands). He has published numerous articles and book chapters on North and South Korea’s foreign policy, contemporary Korean history and inter-Korean relations. He is co-editor of the book on South Korea’s foreign policy titled The Korean Paradox: domestic political divide and foreign policy in South Korea (Routledge, 2019). He is currently working on a book manuscript based on his research tentatively titled, ‘The Evolution of Inter-Korean Cooperation: History, Theory and Practice.’ His research interests include: Korean History and Society, History and International Relations of East Asia, North and South Korean foreign and security policy, Inter-Korean relations, Contemporary Korean cultural production, Media and Communication in Korea and East Asia.

Date: Monday, 20th February

Time: 16:15-17:30

Venue: FAB4.52, Faculty of Arts Building

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