Region: Greater Middle East
South Korea's Charm Offensive: As Reconciliation with the North Comes, Seoul Looks Outward
In under 100 years, South Korea's economy has gone from one of the weakest on the planet to the 12th largest. Today, the country of just over 50 million people has a higher standard of living and education than even Japan, and it has, in many ways, surpassed larger states like Russia and United Provinces in it's technology industry. South Korea has some of the fastest internet speeds of any country, and it's home to giants like LG and Samsung. It also leads the world in shipbuilding, putting more vessels to sea than any other nation. There can be no doubt that the East Asian cultural superpower has already impressed experts many times over, but for the South Koreans themselves, that doesn't seem to be good enough.
Not long ago, the boy band NCT-127 performed in Thailand. The primary focus was the characteristically complex choreography of the genre, but in the background, observers could see logos for Hyundai and Kia, South Korea's leading car brands, who had sponsored the performance. The show in Khon Khaen was something of a massive commercial, and Hyundai Motor Corporation capitalized on it as much as they could, running giveaways for tickets to the concert and putting a series of adds on local television.
Back in Korea, business was also taking place. The National Assembly voted in favor of a program to massively expand the system allowing workers, specifically those from Thailand, to enter and live in Korea. The President was seen attending the openings for workers housing complexes, funded in part by the government, and speaking about the importance of supporting migrant workers, who take many jobs the average Korean wouldn't.
To the west, Samsung held the ground breaking ceremony for a new factory in Serbia, promising to support young tech designers and give them jobs and opportunities to follow their dreams. Across the sea, Samsung also rolled out a concept for a new stadium in Mexico City, a sleek and fancy facility which is planned to have cutting edge new technology.
For many international bystanders, when they think of superpowers, Korea doesn't come to mind. China, Russia, and the United Provinces are the first things one would hear. For those more educated on international affairs, they might mention Persia or the Confederate States. Generally, one when hears of Korea, they respond by saying something along the lines of, "don't they have really weird music?" The truth is, South Korea is far more than that. Crimes rates and unemployment are low, the standard of living is high, the market is ridiculously competitive. A model of capitalism sits at the tip of the Korean Peninsula, with it's heart beating in Seoul, a city which houses almost half the entire country's population, and is one of the most expensive in the world.
Historically, the size and might of China and Japan have trumped Korea, and the threat of North Korea has contained it's aspirations. Yet all of this seems very far away for Koreans, who are more focused on studying in school and getting good jobs.
In conclusion, what's the point of these stadiums, funding programs, and factories? What do these K-pop performances tell us? It's quite simple. Korea has a great many resources, and now, her grip on the global economy as one of the leading importers, is secure. And the government wants to go even further, from a silent superpower, a work horse behind the scenes, to one of the globes leaders.