The Korea Times is currently running an interesting series of articles on Korea’s national brand. The paper has asked a number of foreigners – branding, business, tourism and advertising specialists – to comment on Korea’s perception overseas. Some of the writers are uniquely qualified to provide insights: Simon Anholt, for example, is the man who came up with the “Korea, Sparkling” tourism brand. He confesses, though, that it’s easier to brand a product than a whole country. David Mason focuses on the opportunities to promote religious and spiritual tourism, and advocates the creation or restoration of convenient pilgrimage trails.
David Kilburn (right), whose lovingly preserved hanok in Bukchon features in Kim Ki-duk’s 3-Iron, also provides a contribution. Some of his recommendations, however, proved too radical for the KT editors, and they got excised. Here they are, printed with Kilburn’s permission:
The important decisions about Brand Korea are not made by politicians and bureaucrats in Seoul’s conference rooms. They are made in the hearts and minds of consumers, tourists, businessmen, and travellers around the world. Planning for Brand Korea should recognize this basic fact.
Appoint a Country Brand Director with considerable executive power, reporting directly to the president, and with a substantial budget for research and development. The task should preferably go to a non-Korean with an intimate knowledge of brands and branding outside Korea. Transfer all authority and responsibility for promotion outside Korea to the Brand Director’s office from other government agencies.
Revamp or remove the regulations that hinder the development of tourism infrastructure.
Reform or remove the regulations that hinder foreign businesses in Korea and deter FDI.
Remove the bias against foreign interests that prevails in Korea’s legal system.
Stop the wanton destruction of Korea’s cultural and architectural heritage
Innovate, as so many other countries are doing. Develop new offerings. As countries compete for visitors, they are increasingly developing new attractions, both to woo potential visitors and project themselves in to the headlines. Casino development has enabled Macau to outstrip Las Vegas; Museum franchises are a new destination marketing tool. This began with the Guggenheim in Bilbao, and will continue with a branch of the Louvre for Abu Dhabi, and of the Georges Pompidou Centre in Shanghai. Global sporting events, such as the Olympics and the FIFA World Cup have always been important. Singapore’s F1 is but one attempt to create a major new event to enhance the country brand. Across Asia there is a boom in Spa developments ranging from exclusive, luxurious boutique hotels to enclaves within major five star chains. These may offer anything from pampering massages and health diets, to meditation, aromatherapy, alternative medicine, and astrological counselling.
Recognize the current global turmoil in financial markets will affect travel, tourism, and investment. Competition between destinations will increase and the winners will be those who not only develop sound strategies but also implement then successfully.
Embrace the power of the internet and how it can be used to promote travel, tourism, and investment.
The preservation of Korea’s cultural and architectural heritage is a subject close to Kilburn’s heart. More soon on his Kahoidong campaign.