In his foundational study on post-Cold War American power, Joseph Nye spoke to an alternative or ‘soft,’ form of power that lies in attracting others willingly to your position by fostering in them empathy or envy self-identification or aspiration.  Culture, both high and low, signals society’s values, which together with its practices and policies comprise its core role as a tool of soft-power. As stewards of culture, museums have the potential to broker international soft power, working alongside or in partnership with institutions and governments to influence broad-based, positive change.  Museums possess an abundance of soft-power resources. Their collections include examples of civilization’s highest cultural achievements, and digitally, they foster awe, pride, admiration—the sentiments through which the persuasive power of public diplomacy operates.
Since the 1980s, Hollywood films have become an artistic manifestation of American economic dominance. The industry’s major distributors have been able to leverage U.S. foreign power to pave the way for a new international market in countries that have historically shielded their domestic film industry. In 2019, the international box office hit a record $42.5B with Hollywood films comprising 73% of grosses.  However, Hollywood’s global power is not without cost. To meet international film-production laws, Hollywood sacrifices artistic autonomy.
In a 2019 interview with Time, North Korean diplomat-turned-defector Thae Yong-Ho boldly predicted, “Materialism will one day bring change.”  Like Thae, many North Korea watchers are betting on the power of pop culture and its ability to take down a 75-year-old regime. But is North Korea’s trajectory really pointing toward collapse? And if so, does the credit for that go to Korean dramas, K-Pop, and other flows of outside information? The short answer: no, and no.