South Korea’s Soft Power Impact in the United States: Exploring the Influence of K-Culture, Corporate Reputation, and Co-Orientation on Positive Amplification and Resonance

Principal Investigator:
Myoung-Gi Chon, CPD Research Fellow 2024-26

The surge of South Korean culture, commonly referred to as K-culture, has played a pivotal role in amplifying the allure of the United States' economic influence among a broader American audience. The growing fascination with K-culture, spanning music, film, drama, and cuisine, is clearly manifested through noteworthy accomplishments. Examples include BTS attaining three No. 1 albums on the Billboard 200 Chart, the Korean film "Parasite" clinching four Oscars, and the popularity of traditional Korean food, as exemplified by Trader Joe’s frozen “Kimbap.” Furthermore, South Korean corporations are actively investing in the United States. Samsung, for instance, has earmarked $17 billion for a semiconductor fabrication plant in Austin, Texas. Simultaneously, the SK Group has made a substantial investment of $22 billion in Georgia, USA, spanning industries such as semiconductors and green energy. Notably, Hyundai Motor Group's establishment of an electric vehicle manufacturing plant in Savannah, Georgia, stands as the largest economic development initiative in the state.

Considering the substantial impact of K-culture and the K-economy in the United States, it is crucial for the Korean government to delve into relevant questions concerning their influence by employing the perspectives of both soft power research and empirical data. Thus, this study aims to investigate the influence of the Korean wave (K-culture) and the reputation of Korean corporations (K-economy) in the United States. It places a specific emphasis on the positive amplification and resonance directed towards the country, employing the concepts of megaphoning (i.e., positive Word-of-Mouth on South Korea) and echoing (i.e., sharing information from the focal communicant on South Korea). Additionally, the theoretical framework of this research will incorporate an exploration of the co-orientation model within the realm of public diplomacy. This investigation aims to elucidate the degree of alignment or divergence in perspectives between Koreans and Americans regarding Korea's soft power. Initially designed to explain interpersonal communication, the co-orientation model has been extended to illuminate relations between organizations and their key publics. As a result, the findings of this study will contribute to the assessment of effective soft power strategies and their impact on national reputation. This research will shed light on the proximity or distance between South Korea and its crucial foreign publics in the United States.