Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Academic Conference on Korea’s Nation Brand

The Presidential Council on Nation Branding held “The Academic Conference on Korea’s Nation Brand” on Wednesday, October 27 at the Grand Hilton Seoul.

Scholars and experts in a wide range of fields including journalism, marketing, management and North Korean studies gathered to discuss the effect of the G20 Seoul Summit and the recent situation surrounding the Korean Peninsula, including North Korea’s hereditary power succession on the South’s nation brand.

In her welcoming address Chairwoman Lee Bae-Yong of the Council expressed, “For the past 50 years since the Korean War, Korea has accomplished both astounding economic growth and democracy, which is nothing short of a miracle.”

“However, there is a growing concern over the recent situation surrounding the Korean Peninsula, including North Korea’s hereditary power succession. Many voice their apprehension that this may negatively affect how Korea is perceived in the global society. This may go against our efforts so far to correct South Korea’s misperceived image in the world, such as the foreign textbooks revision project undertaken by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.”

“In light of that, the Council has prepared a conference in which experts in various fields are invited to discuss and seek ways to tackle this worrisome issue,” Chairwoman Lee explained.

Although it is true that Korea’s international standing is rising rapidly – especially with the hosting of the G20 Seoul Summit in a few days – still, a great many people worldwide do not know much about Korea. There have been not a few instances where South Korean athletes were reported as North Korean or vice versa at international sporting events, or government documents meant for South Korea were delivered to the North Korean embassy.

With the recent issue of North Korea’s power transition sweeping the foreign media, in particular, apprehension is growing that this may have negative impact on the South’s nation brand in the global community.


The conference on October 27 began with Ms. Margaret Key’s presentation of agenda, followed by presentations by the panel composed of Prof. Seung-Mok Yang of Seoul National University (President of Korean Society for Journalism and Communication Studies); Mr. Andrew Salmon (a Seoul-based journalist for The Washington Times); Prof. Cheol Lee of Sogang University (President of Korean Academy of International Business); Mr. Tetsuya Hakoda (Chief of Asahi Shimbun Seoul Bureau).

Ms. Key emphasized, “South Korea needs to underscore its differences from the North and effectively promote them to the world. In nation branding, you can benchmark, but should not simply imitate. Korea currently is at the stage of advancing toward “premium,” and it should enhance its nation brand with a creative and also quantifiable value system.”

Prof. Seung-Mok Yang who gave a presentation on “The Current Status and Direction of Korea’s Nation Branding” stressed, “A nation’s brand refers to the comprehensive perception the global people have of the nation and its people. Korea’s nation brand is improving for sure, but it lags far behind its economic power.”

Prof. Yang emphasized the importance of culture in establishing nation brand. For example, he mentioned the slogan “Dynamic Korea” which may give off a somewhat rough impression. “It may be improved to suggest something more sophisticated at the same time as dynamic.”

Prof. Cheol Lee of Sogang University (President of Korean Academy of International Business) expressed, “The US used to be regarded as the manufacturer of outstanding products, but it has changed now. Being perceived as a good manufacturer doesn’t last long. Efforts must be made for sustainable branding. Korea needs to develop slogans, symbols and logos that can aptly capture the core value of the country.” 

Andrew Salmon, a Seoul-based journalist for The Washington Times, stressed, “It is true that the North Korean issues may have negative influences on the Korea brand. But actual investors or tourists are certainly well aware of the differences between the North and the South. As in the Lone Star issue, Korea is regarded as unfair to foreign investors, and CEOs of Korea’s major global companies, despite their high performance, are not perceived as favorably as, say, Steve Jobs or Bill Gates. This problem lies more in South Korea than in whatever negative impact the North may be causing.” 

Hakoda Tetsuya, chief of Asahi Shimbun Seoul bureau, expressed, “The Korean people need to cultivate global etiquette that becomes the country’s nation brand. Also, it is a problem that sometimes many things get disregarded for the sake of efficiency.”

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