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[Editorial] Korea Should Revamp Its Image

Posted April. 25, 2008 06:27,   


With four years left until its London Olympic Games in 2012, Britain is trying to improve its national image under its slogan of “London, the leader of global culture.” Germany boasts its “land of idea” concept so as to add creativity to its technology prowess. Each nation is struggling to improve national image that is directly related with trust, competitiveness and pride of the country, as well as its power and wealth.

Korea’s national image has fallen. According to Germany’s brand agency Anholt-GMI, Korea ranked 25th in the national brand power category among 35 nations in 2005, but it fell to the 32nd place among 38 nations in the last quarter of 2007. It even trails China and Mexico. Korea’s national brand is far weaker than its economic power. The Hyundai Economic Research Institute said Korea’s GDP was comparable to a 14th of that of the United States in 2006. However, its national brand value stood at $503.2 billion, a 26th of the U.S. brand value for the same year. Worse, its weaker national brand is getting even weaker.

The economic think tank explained Korea is still associated with negative images such as colony, war, and autocracy, regardless of the fact that U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon is a Korean. It said violent demonstrations and labor-management disputes also tarnish Korea’s national image. Federation of Korean Trade Unions Chairman Jang Suk-chun, who accompanied President Lee Myung-bak during his visit to the United States and Japan, confessed, “I didn’t know that foreigners have such deep distrust in Korea’s labor-management relations.”

It is true that Korea’s national image improved a lot while it showed off the so-called “Miracle of the Han River.” However, progressive governments that had ruled the nation for the past decade as well as negative images of colony, war and autocracy have caused the nation’s image to plunge. Korea can upgrade its national image only when its leader and people closely cooperate. French professor Guy Sorman said, “A nation’s image is grown when each individual makes an effort over a long time.”

What is important to improve Korea’s national image? First, the Lee Myung-bak administration should closely cooperate and share values with advanced democratic nations including the United States. For their part, Korean firms should strive to inspire confidence in global consumers who use Korean products. Finally, the people should consider themselves as global citizens.