Korea Herald [EDITORIAL] Nation brandingIt's pretty funny really. Each of the Korean cities and even some of the neighbourhoods also have one word English slogans, and generally ones that make no sense whatsoever. We had a quiz round on them once which turned out to be a guessing disaster, even though two of our teammates are quite well-travelled around Korea. I highly doubt that a new adjective is going to do anything at all for Korea's reputation. One of the few things I think that Korea maybe could do is clean up the ESL industry. After all, most people have a frame of reference for South Korea that includes the Korean War and North Korea. Before I moved here the only other thing I knew was that my friend Candace had worked here and basically hated it. If you google Korea, you fast come across places like Dave's ESL Cafe, and if you were to go by the portrait those posters paint of Korea... Well, wow is all I can say. Perhaps protecting the basic rights of the foreigners here in the country and working to combat racist attitudes (Teacher! Africa people eat people! Really! All of them!) might be a more logical way of building a positive image outside of Korea. Korea really is a great country and on the whole, most of the Korean people I've come across have been great too. However, the bad eggs certainly are spotlighted on the Internet.
Korea will stop being described as "dynamic" or "sparkling," at least on the government level. "Miraculous Korea" is being considered as a candidate national slogan by a special panel working on improving the nation's image.
The "Dynamic Korea" catch phrase, which has been used in official publications from around the time of the 2002 FIFA World Cup Korea-Japan, is feared to remind outsiders of violent demonstrations in this country. "Korea, Sparkling," another slogan coined by the Korea Tourism Organization, sounds like a commercial message for mineral water in the opinion of Euh Yoon-dae, chairman of the Presidential Council on National Branding.
The council, which came into being last January under President Lee Myung-bak's instruction to promote Korea's image abroad, plans to hire a foreign company to create a new national slogan to replace the old ones. Chairman Euh, an economist who was president of Korea University, seems to favor "Miraculous Korea," which he believes denotes Korea's economic success, particularly in the areas of technology.
True, a recent government-commissioned survey with a large number of foreigners has determined that "advanced technology" is the primary image that is conjured up when they think of South Korea. That is followed by Korean food, television dramas, the people, overall economic growth and the still persistent image of the Korean War. It makes sense that the presidential council seeks to emphasize an area where Korea has already established a positive image in the international community.
While we appreciate the efforts of President Lee and the presidential council to enhance Korea's "brand power," we wonder how much a single catch phrase can formulate a better image of Korea among foreigners and encourage them to buy more Korean products and take vacations here. We remember Thailand and Malaysia, for example, made big international publicity efforts with such tourism promotion catch phrases as "Fantastic Thailand" and "Malaysia, Truly Asia," we do not know if Japan and China had such national slogans.
Korea is not alone in wanting to improve its national branding in this age of indefinite global competition. With official or semi-official establishments, nations make meticulous international publicity efforts by creating fancy logos and circulating catchy slogans to attract overseas attention. Their aim is to induce foreign investment, bring in more foreign tourists and increase exports. Hosting Olympic Games, the World Cup or the World Expo may be the ultimate in national branding exercises.
But the members of the national branding council and other government authorities should realize the limits of such "overhead" national publicity, which can be rather counterproductive when overused or overemphasized. Wise investors and sophisticated international tourists are more affected by the footage of clashes in Seoul Plaza than by repeated chants of "Miraculous Korea" on CNN.
We believe diversity is the best thing in today's publicity war. Samsung, LG and Hyundai have yet to take the trouble to disclose the national origin of their cell phones, LED TVs and passenger cars in their ads but by far they are the most powerful instruments of Korea's national branding as the government survey has proved. Starting the complicated job of increasing Korea's brand power by coining a new catchphrase is a naive approach
(Gotta love the Korea Herald. When I used the spell check, the only mistake that it found was in the article!)