[VIEWPOINT]Firebombs, CNN and the World CupBefore I came to this country, the only things I knew about Korea were the Korean War, the division into two countries, the major presence of U.S. soldiers, and the aggressive demonstrations of the unions and students that could be seen on CNN. Most of the images about Korea were wrong and negative, as they were mostly influenced by mass media. I found from talking to foreigners who work in Korea that they, too, had these stereotypes before coming to Korea.
But, these perceptions change after living in Korea for a short while. Soon one realizes how safe it is to live here and that demonstrations do not represent Korea in its entirety, but rather in the opinion of some. This may be similar to Koreans perceiving Israel as a country that is in constant conflict with the Palestinians rather than as a leading country in the export of information technology products such as software, microchips, and other innovative hi-tech products. Most of the time an image of a particular country is formed by what is shown on TV, such as wars or demonstrations.
On the other hand, unless one pays special attention, it is easy to overlook a country's credentials such as a leading country in a particular area or exports. Therefore, the image of a country communicated to the general public is often quite different from reality. Demonstrations are a way to express a group's opinion. But, from a foreigner's point of view, firebomb demonstrations in Korea that seem to get more violent by the day do not help when the World Cup is only a year away. There is no better opportunity to promote Korea than the World Cup. Everyone knows how much effort and money it would take to promote Korea to the world if it were not for global festivals like the World Cup. Let's remember what a great role the 1988 Olympics played in promoting Korea. Not to mention the number of visitors and the profits to be made from it, the global village will watch and learn about Korea during the entire period of the World Cup. Without doubt, Korea will be the center of the world during the World Cup.
Many of my Europeans friends already talk about the 2002 World Cup. A few weeks ago I met with a Scottish friend who works in Singapore and he talked enthusiastically about the plans he and his friends have to come to Korea. They have already applied for tickets on the Internet for a group of 20 including friends and relatives. During the meal, all he could talk about was the places he visited, the things he did at the last World Cup, and also how great France was.
Isn't it amazing? After the World Cup next year, people all over the world will talk about Korea. Some people will keep the memories of Korea for the rest of their lives. Isn't the World Cup the perfect chance to show the tradition, philosophy, and beauty of Korea to all the visitors? Consider them as the honorary ambassadors of Korea. With the World Cup not far away, if slanted views of Korea such as violent demonstrations with firebombs are continuously shown to the world on the mass media, it will not help to attract foreign visitors. Furthermore, it will be very disappointing if, because of preconceived images, visitors turn to Japan instead of to Korea during the World Cup.
I hope all Koreans will recognize that the World Cup is not just a sporting event, but an opportunity to showcase the wonders and beauty of Korea.
The writer is president of DaimlerChrysler Korea.
by Wayne Chumley