University of Leicester
2020KIMSMPHD.pdf (4.61 MB)

Curating Culture, Exhibiting Nation: The Development of South Korea’s Cultural Diplomacy and Korean Exhibitions in ‘Universal’ Museums

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posted on 2020-12-02, 12:05 authored by Sumi Kim
Since the establishment of the nation of the Republic of Korea (South Korea) in 1948, the South Korean government has developed its cultural diplomacy to promote Korean culture and national identity. The development of South Korean cultural diplomacy has a considerable relationship with international curatorial practice, via the construction of cultural identity by using and exhibiting Korean cultural materials overseas. The analysis of the developmental stages of South Korean cultural diplomacy in relation to international museum exhibitions is largely an unexplored field despite its interdisciplinary contributions to cultural policy and museum studies.
This thesis posits three major aspects to understanding the transformation of South Korean cultural diplomacy and its relations with the representation of Korean culture in ‘universal’ museums (the Metropolitan Museum of Art and the British Museum) through time. First, the thesis explores social, political and economic factors and their impact on three stages of the development of South Korea’s cultural diplomacy, which are ‘public diplomacy’ during the Cold War, ‘cultural diplomacy’ in the 1990s and ‘cultural relations’ since the 2000s. Second, this thesis articulates the ways in which particular curatorial processes have used Korean materials to construct and interpret cultural identity through international exhibits, particularly two major travelling exhibitions, the establishment of Korean galleries and special thematic exhibitions. Third, this thesis examines the role of ‘universal’ museums in cultural diplomacy which represents a particular (Korean) culture in a global space. Ultimately, this thesis suggests taking a critical and empirical approach to the analysis of the inter-connective and shifting cultural diplomacy policies and museum practice.



Lisanne Gibson

Date of award


Author affiliation

School of Museum Studies

Awarding institution

University of Leicester

Qualification level

  • Doctoral

Qualification name

  • PhD



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