Go to contents

Foreigner`s perspective: Upgrading Korea to where people want to work in

Foreigner`s perspective: Upgrading Korea to where people want to work in

Posted April. 24, 2013 06:35,   


I have been living in Korea for six years. Many Korean people ask me about my impression on Korea. I have keen interest in Korea`s national image thanks to my working experience at a leading global consumer goods firm and at the Presidential Council of National Branding.

From a foreigner`s view, Korea is a very impressive country. In just 50 years or so, Korea has overcome the disasters of war and division of two Koreas through utmost effort and sacrifice, and became the world`s seventh largest exporter. The country exhibited an unprecedented pace of economic growth as exemplified by the "Miracle of Han River," the story of which is much touted among foreigners.

Despite such economic achievements, Korea remains at the bottom in national brand rankings. According to a survey by Reputation Institute, Korea`s reputation ranking stood at second to bottom among Asian countries in 2012.

The word brand originally meant to mark ownership on a cow using a hot iron from a fire. It grew into a concept used by companies trying to build reputation through brands to become a trustable company and to raise business value and sustainability. Even if products have the same quality, they are divided into products that have premium and those that do not have it. Brand has grown into a commercial value from a means for distinguishing a product.

Nation brand is also important. The rise in nation brand means the country and its industries have secured a competitive edge. Higher nation brand not only enables more inbound tourists, but also boosts inflow of investment and talented people as well as promotion of trade. Brand enables countries yield cultural and political influence in the global stage. Countries whose economies are in a mature stage, like Korea, can create additional economic engines by raising nation brand value.

Even with all the importance of nation brand, why does Korea remain low in nation brand awareness survey? Many foreigners visiting Korea are recently experiencing Korean traditional houses, listening to haegeum (traditional Korean string instrument), and taking photos in Korean traditional clothes. They are eager to experience Korean culture. However, nation brand cannot be enhanced just through such programs. Other countries also have programs for traditional house, clothing and music.

The ultimate issue is how to cater Korean unique characteristics to foreigners. Korean brands and culture are recently gaining huge global popularity. The popularity of rapper and singer Psy shows the increasing influence of Korean culture, including K-pop, on the world. Psy has caught the eyes of the world through Korean unique style and comic sense that can barely be mimicked. His song and dance help people forget about the tough economic situations.

Efforts should not remain cultural. The government should steadily invest in fostering the service industry and create job opportunities for young talented people. To this end, economic stabilization, deregulation, consistency in nation brand policy, and decent infrastructure should be promoted and built. When changes are made, Korean will see enhanced value as a business market and nation brand.

Korea has already surpassed expectations in national development and global economic power. It is time to show the world that "Brand Korea" is dynamic, exciting and global.