Sport for Development Approaches in South Korea: Setting National Preferences and Sharing Ideas in view of SfD Programmes

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Sport has a huge political, economic and social influence around the world, beyond its importance as mere physical activity. The Sport for Development (SfD) approach provides both children and adults with the opportunity to achieve their potential through initiatives which promote individual and social development. With joining of the Development Assistance Committee (DAC) of the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) and enacting the Framework Act on International Development Cooperation in 2010, the Korean government has been actively involved in the SfD approach as part of international development cooperation.
Compared to the relatively well-organised governance of elite sport and sport-for-all, Korean SfD approach is not well-established, and there is still a lack of comprehensive understanding of Korean SfD approach. Therefore, this study aims to comprehensively understand Korean SfD approach. Specifically, the study to analyses how and why national preferences and/or non-material factors or agendas have affected the emergence and development of the Korean SfD approach based on two international relations (IR) theories.
In this study, both national preference formation theory as a rationalist perspective and constructivism as a constructivist perspective are adapted for a theoretical framework to explain various aspects of the Korean SfD approach in terms of domestic and international political viewpoints. Two theories have many differences of how the states’ behaviours are driven and actors acquire their identities and interests in the specific environment. However, what is important regarding the synthesis of each theory is the elaborate integration with one another in terms of domain, scope conditions and criteria to clearly identify each hypothesis. It would ultimately result in a new synthetic theoretical course that contributes to much more extensive and plentiful explanations than those from the separated theories.
Given the research aims and questions for this study, qualitative method could be the best way to understand the phenomena, especially their meaning,
process and motive in detail. Specifically, six ongoing SfD programmes in Korea are used as cases for a multiple case study. The interviews were conducted in Korea from March 25 to April 12, 2019. Basically, the study interviewed a total of 14 people, and tried to select two interviewees for each SfD programme, one from the state actors and one from non-state actors. Also, various documents and archival records, such as statistics, white papers, academic paper, annual reports, annual plans, internal data and brochures were used for the main sources. To analyse qualitative data, deductive content analysis and cross-case synthesis analysis were used because it could be useful for aggregating the results of each case study conducted independently and allows analysis if the pattern of cases in the study were repeated or contrasted.
As a result, Korean SfD approach, which appeared through six SfD programmes, generally conformed to the two IR theories, but there were some parts that were not sufficiently explained by the theories. In terms of actors, except for the Vision 2014 programme, both state and non-state actors have played an important role in the SfD programmes, but most of them appeared to be domestic actors. With regard to the development process, except for the Vision 2014 programme, Korean SfD programmes began and developed around the interaction between state actors and societal actors as well as non-material factors and agendas of the international community. In particular, non-material factors and agendas embedded in the international society have a significant effect on the development of Korean SfD approach.
Regarding the role of the government in SfD programmes, the Korean government has collected opinions from societal actors and reflected them in policies, except for the Vision 2014 programme, and actively internalised non-material factors or agendas. In terms of support for the operation of the SfD programme, non-state actors based on expertise and resources have mainly been responsible for the financial, material and human support. Although state actors have been exclusively responsible for supporting the WFK–KOV programme, the government has been directly and indirectly involved in the KSPO in charge of financial support of most SfD programmes. Lastly, Korean SfD programmes have been found to be carried out by motivations for national interests and humanitarian values. This motive would be deeply related to not only hosting mega sporting events and enhancing the influence within international sports, but also realising humanitarian values, such as the MDGs, SDGs, Olympic Movement and international peace and prosperity.
Overall, constructivism provided relatively more useful insights into Korean SfD approach, but national preference formation theory would not be overlooked. Despite some limitations, the two theories are considered useful as analytical lenses to understand the overall phenomenon of the SfD approach in Korea. In particular, the combination of the two theories is appropriate for a complementary understanding of the phenomenon of Korean SfD approach, in which each theory alone lacks sufficient explanation. It was also confirmed that the complementary analytic framework of the two theories may be persuasive in the phenomenon in other areas formed by the combined influence of domestic politics and the international community, such as the Korean SfD approach.
As for practical implications, domestic actors need to actively engage the recipient countries and regional actors in the planning stage of the programme to inspire their ownership and increase the effectiveness of the programme. The establishment of the tentatively named ‘Sport ODA Committee’ for active interaction between various actors would be necessary to professionally establish a long-term development strategy of Korean SfD approach. Also, despite private actors’ lack of awareness of the SfD approach and pursuit of commerciality, private–public partnerships would have to be steadily sought for the sustainability and scale expansion of SfD.
Regarding academic consequences, there was a limit to explaining the analysis results of Korean SfD approach revealed in this study in light of those of other countries. In the future, comparative studies on the SfD approach in countries will need to be conducted on a basis that can equally analyse key phenomena. Lastly, further research is needed to contribute to the establishment of systematic governance for the SfD approach, which, like K-pop and K-quarantine, is derived from the K-SfD approach model, and is expected to be delivered as a good influence to all those in need around the world.
Original languageEnglish
Place of PublicationKöln
PublisherDeutsche Sporthochschule Köln
Number of pages462
Publication statusPublished - 2022


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