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Covering things Korean in London and beyond since 2006

A look back at 2011 – part 2

In the second of our articles we look at stories relating to Sports, Tourism, and national branding and marketing. And K-pop and celebrities are never far away when talking of Brand Korea.

Sports and Tourism

Jeju Island
Jeju Island

Jeju was provisionally listed as one of the worlds New 7 Wonders, after a multi-month international marketing campaign. Celebrities ranging from Park Ji-sung to British talent show tenor Paul Potts were recruited as ambassadors for the island. Jeju is already a popular tourist destination, and hosted a tour group of 11,000 holiday makers from Chinese company Baojian in September this year. Japanese tourists are also arriving in numbers, attracted by the island’s UNESCO listing and by the popularity of Korean entertainers. The ever-increasing average age of Jeju’s famous female divers was reduced by the debut of a 24-year old diver.

The international athletics championships were held in Daegu from 27 August – 4 September, focusing world attention on the city famous for its apples and its body painting festival.

Park Ji-sung retired as captain of the national team, and the Korean football league was caught up in a match-fixing scandal.

Pyeongchang in Kangwon-do won the right to host the 2018 Winter Olympics, the third time in succession it had competed. Kim Yuna became a fashion icon, and spokeswoman Theresa Ra became an overnight celebrity. Non-Koreans in a poll thought that the Winter Olympics is a bigger boost Brand Korea than K-pop. Shin Kyung-sook’s novel Please Look After Mother also appeared on the list, while Koreans polled included Pororo the Penguin.

Pop Culture and Brand Korea

Seoul, voted Asians’ top travel destination in one poll announced plans to turn Chungmuro into a Korean Wave theme street. TV Dramas continued to draw tourists to the country. The Korean Tourism organisation launched a promotional interactive video offering a virtual date with Miss A and 2PM. Seoul Metropolitan Government combined with SM Entertainment to promote Seoul and K-pop to South-east Asia.

Annyeong: the welcome screen to an interactive tour of Seoul with K-pop stars

As we predicted, this was the year in which K-pop made itself known outside of Asia. Live K-pop events took place in Paris, London and New York, and K-pop flashmobs and dance cover competitions seemed to spring up everywhere.

K-pop increasingly established itself as a brand, getting its own YouTube music channel, and its own Billboard chart; there’s even an unofficial K-pop chart in the UK. In a trade conference in London in December, the KOTRA representative launched his presentation with a MV of Girl’s Generation’s Gee.

Korean popular culture in Japan

The same MV for Gee was perfectly spoofed by a bunch of middle aged Japanese men.

The most profitable K-pop group in Japan
The most profitable K-pop group in Japan

KARA was the most profitable K-pop group in Japan, with Girl’s Generation going double platinum in Japan, and 2NE1, After School and T-ara holding debut gigs there this year.

Korean stars including KARA, Jang Dong-gun and Lee Byung-hun contributed to help Tsunami victims.

Anti-hallyu feeling re-emerged in a Japanese manga and some nationalist groups protested against Fuji TV broadcasting too much Korean TV drama and entertainment.


One of the official photos marking the wedding of Yoo Ji-tae and Kim Hyo-jin
One of the official photos marking the wedding of Yoo Ji-tae and Kim Hyo-jin

Top wedding of the year was of Yoo Ji-tae and Kim Hyo-jin (2 December). Also making vows this year were ex S.E.S. member Eugene (Kim Yoo-jin) and actor Ki Tae-young (23 July). Celebrity births this year included twins for Lee Young-ae and a baby boy for Lee Soo-young.

It was a bad year for Han Ye-seul, who was charged with a hit-and-run offense in May, and disappeared from the set of her poorly-performing TV drama Spy Myeongwol in August. Big Bang also had a bad year, with G-Dragon caught smoking marijuana and Daesung in court for driving over an injured motorcyclist. TV show host Kang Ho-dong and actress Kim A-joong were fined for tax evasion, while Bae Yong-joon lost his fight to get his tax bill reduced. The actress Han Hyo-joo was given an honest taxpayer award and girl group T-ara stood in for civil servants at Namdaemun Tax Office.

Hyun Bin started military service in March. The Marines produced a picture book of the star in action, and he participated in a goodwill visit to Indonesia, thanks to the popularity of his TV drama Secret Garden.

It was discovered that pop music legend Seo Taiji had been married for 12 years (and subsequently divorced) to Lee Ji-ah. The relationship came to light when Lee sued for alimony.

A new TV reality show, I am a Singer, reintroduced last year’s pop megastars, including Baek Ji-young and Yoon Do-hyun, to a new audience. Veteran Kim Gun-mo was caught cheating but still released his 13th album and a 20-year retrospective. An early graduate of the show was Lena Park.

More looks back at 2011:

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