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Korea continues to suck at tourism

Asia News Weekly
Written by Asia News Weekly
Korea tourism

By now you’ve seen the reports in the news about Seoul, South Korea choosing a new tousim slogan and the outrage that has ensued. Many have complained that the winning phrase “I.Seoul.U” means nothing to English speakers and will fail to achieve its desired goal. 

They’re right.

South Korea sucks at marketing itself and the Seoul slogan debacle is no exception. The reason for these continued failures is simple: those at the top of the food chian believe they know better than the intended foreign audience and outside marketing professionals, what makes Korea (and Seoul) attractive — and that simply isn’t true.

In 2010, I was invited to a big press conference hosted by the Ministry of Sports, Culture, and Tourism (an organization I was writing for at the time) and asked by the minisiter himself what the organization gets wrong.

I flatly said, that when ads are generated, they’re often created without taking into consideration the target audience. The result is a disjointed and embarrassing attempt to woo a foreign audience. The spots, whie they may generate strong emotions to Koreans, elicit no reactions to foreigners.The false steps also make Korea (and its marketing efforts) appear like they’re not ready for prime time. 

The effect leaves the audience wondering: If Korea can’t create a coherent English phrase to market your country with, can it even successfully handle English speaking tourists?
So while experts, foreigners, and others are involved with these projects, and try their best to put forward exceptional ideas that would actually perform well and serve the nation, the primary roadblock is really the “corporate culture” of top-down management where its impossible to disagree with a superior — no matter how wrong they are.

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  • Chrissie

    How ever much you market Korea for tourism – as long as you torture / skin and boil live dogs and cats – then thousands of potential tourists won’t visit your country .

  • MB

    Why should someone be interested to visit a country that signed anti-racial discrimination convention but it doesn’t have any laws to apply?

    Korea it has so many beautiful places…. for Koreans. Just look at the discrimination reports, from subway, buses, public spaces and private spaces as clubs, restaurants. Discrimination may exist in many countries, but Korea was an isolated country and except for technology, their mind is still in the past. Of course, every country still have people that may have racist attitude, but there are laws against. In USA, a Korean man that was married with a Japanese woman, put an hiring announce for their restaurant, and they “unintentionally” misspelled the text, saying that no minorities can apply. In short time, they received a lot of calls, and some people decided to not go back to that restaurant and the couple put appollogize letter and voice message at phone too. In Korea, many clubs have “no foreigner” policy, that is applied even for naturalized citizens (aka legal Koreans but with other racial origin). A similar Korean club received a big fine in the USA for similar attitude.

    Korea is making a lot of efforts to atract people to their country, K-Pop is even sustained by government, but they still didn’t voted good laws for discrimination. The only institution that is “managing” these situations can only provide “suggestions” and not even issue some orders…. at least to pay some money, if not closing the bussiness.

    There are many situations, about raped woman that were not helped by the police and many others regarding miggrant workers. Although, similar situations may happen everywhere, if there would be laws that are setting some sanctions, the situation will be better.

    There is a big difference between K-Pop, K-drama and many of the Korea image that is broadcasting abroad, and the real situation.

    In one personal situation, the bus driver from the airport didn’t took me although there were available seats and I had a valid ticket. Should I say similar situations?

    Why should tourists visit a country where they are not feeling protected?……..

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