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Seoul goes with Haechi as its logo

May 14,2008
The Haechi, Seoul’s new symbol. Provided by the city government
The city of Seoul has chosen the Haechi, a mythical traditional Korean creature, as the symbol of the city. The Haechi, also known as the Haetae, resembles a lion but has a horn on its forehead and is covered with scales. The creature was traditionally considered a guardian against fire and disaster and its statues feature at ancient palaces such as Gyeongbok.
The city said it plans to use the symbol in promoting tourism, and hopes it comes to represent Seoul as well as the Merlion does Singapore or the bear does Berlin.
“Despite the city’s size and reputation, there was no symbol of the city,” said Mayor Oh Se-hoon at a press conference at City Hall yesterday. “We will establish Seoul as ‘the city of the Haechi’ by building statues in Gwanghwamun Plaza, slated to be completed next year, and all across the city.”
According to the city’s plan, the Haechi will be used for diverse Seoul souvenirs like T-shirts and key chains, and be painted on city buses and taxis.
The city’s ambitious plan quickly came under criticism, however, as some pointed out that the city failed to collect public opinion on the symbol.
There was a pubic hearing held on the emblem on April 21, but it was not announced to the media and only 80 people attended. In a survey of 500 respondents, the Haechi was not even included in 27 proposed symbols.
“At first, the city decided to use Gyeongbok Palace as its symbol but the palace’s image was not versatile enough to be used in different ways,” said the city in its press release. “That’s why we decided to choose the Haechi, which is related to the palace.”
The Haechi has also been used as the logo of local food manufacturer Haitai since 1945.
“Although the Haechi is a symbolic animal which guards Gyeongbok Palace, it is difficult to see the creature as the symbol of the city,” said Kim Jong-dae, a professor of folklore at Chung-Ang University.
soejung@joongang.co.kr


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