Sunday 14 Aug 2022 | 16:05 | SYDNEY
Sunday 14 Aug 2022 | 16:05 | SYDNEY

E-diplomacy in Korea: Café USA


Fergus Hanson


This post is part of the E-diplomacy in action debate thread. To read other posts in this debate, click here.

13 May 2011 10:36

This post is part of the E-diplomacy in action debate thread. To read other posts in this debate, click here.

Koreans are legendary for their embrace of technology. Not surprisingly, the State Department, via e-diplomat Ambassador Kathleen Stephens and her team, has had a lot of success with digital initiatives in Korea. One particularly interesting example is Café USA.

To look at this platform in detail, I conducted this email interview with Aaron Tarver, Press Attaché at the US Embassy in Korea. 

Q: For our non-Korean readers, could you explain what Café USA is about and how the concept originated?

A: Café USA is the Mission's official online community created in October 2004 to facilitate direct communication between the Embassy and Korea's internet-savvy general public. The café is hosted on DAUM, one of the two major internet portals in Korea. Currently, Café USA boasts over 11,000 registered members and has around 500 daily visits, with messages posted each day on various boards. The members not only read and post messages on web-boards regularly, but also participate in web chats to share their views on bilateral relations.  

Q: What sorts of issues get raised in Café USA and how does Café USA contribute towards the work of the US Embassy in Korea?

A: One of the popular features of Café USA is the consular/visa Q&A section. Whenever there is a question on consular matters, the Consular Office answers the questions under the Consul General’s name and gets them posted on Café USA. Members also ask the Ambassador various questions, especially about her blog entries. The Ambassador answers them as time and circumstances permit. Café USA acts as a venue for dialogue and communication between Koreans and the Mission.

Q: Why the focus on Café USA rather than say Facebook, which I notice you also use?

A: As social networking sites are the focus in today's new media era, we place equal importance both on Café USA and Facebook, but for different purposes. We upload the Ambassador's blog entries and longer posts on Café USA, and post shorter and more concise drafts on the Embassy's Facebook and Twitter accounts. These accounts in turn are linked to our websites, YouTube account, photo galleries etc. It really is a full integration of social media.

Q: Do you have any tips for other foreign ministries that are considering engaging people using e-diplomacy platforms?

A: If you have started using social networking sites to reach out to a wider audience, we recommend conducting two-way communication, engaging with them in dialogue as much as possible. The transformative aspect of social media to communication is its interactive effect; thus, simply sending out missives one-way may not achieve the desired result.

To that end, if possible, implementing strategies that ask for broader, more active participation both internally in your institution and externally in dialogue with your audience, strategies that keep the content and face of your online presence fresh and up-to-date, and that engage online members through the latest cutting-edge technology, will strengthen the impact of your e-diplomacy efforts.  

Q: Finally, could you summarise your own view of what e-diplomacy is about? 

A: New methods and modes of conducting business and communication are becoming the norm, with the help of the internet, information and communication technologies. E-diplomacy is a way of utilising those methods and modes of communication as a new platform from which to enhance the public affairs programs that you have already created and to engage entirely new audiences in a different and much more immediate and personal way.