[Outlook] Boosting Korea’s brand

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[Outlook] Boosting Korea’s brand

On March 17, President Lee Myung-bak presided over a meeting of the national brand committee at which a plan was unveiled to raise the standing of our country’s brand. Korea’s reputation now sits relatively low among member states in the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development.

Our country’s brand value is not properly appreciated, and some in the foreign press have expressed doubts on Korea’s economy. Some have even delivered distorted news about our country.

Thus, it is natural and timely for us to begin promoting our country, so that its reputation matches our economic power.

Unlike the brand value of a product that one can sell and buy in the market, a country’s brand is a combination of tangible and intangible assets.

The stronger a country’s brand, the stronger a foundation it has for conducting domestic and foreign affairs

In establishing a brand, it is important for the government to set a basic direction and decide on general principles.

First, we need to focus on improving the actual assets that form the basis of the Korean brand. These include the competitiveness of our products and the global awareness of our citizens. The government must take the lead in expanding our country’s contribution to international society, and foster an image of Korea as a good example of a nation that has achieved economic growth and democratization.

We need to remember that many advanced countries started to make contributions to international society decades before us. Sweden, Denmark and Norway have given nearly 1 percent of their gross domestic product to foreign aid annually for 20 years.

We should think in terms of now we must do our overdue homework as the world’s 13th-largest economy and a responsible member of the international community. We must work passionately on this task for the next 10 or 20 years to come, but at the same time we need to conduct our volunteer work quietly and humbly.

This is the right way to fulfill the concept of noblesse oblige as a responsible and successful nation. By preparing a moral foundation for our country, we will be setting up the first stepping stone to raising the value of our national brand, a task that we need to plan 100 years into the future.

Second, we need to establish global standards in our system, customs and our way of thinking. We should broaden our views so that we treasure not only our own traditions and culture, but also those of other countries.

We must not try to promote only the Korean way of life. Instead, we need to accept and appreciate other cultures and systems.

In doing so, we must overcome our nationalism and emphasis on bloodlines, along with the obsession with the notion “of the Koreans, by the Koreans and for the Koreans.”

As we have become one of the world’s larger economies and aim to become one of its most advanced nations, we need to think beyond our borders and make a decision to accept international standards.

When we understand the value of what others have to offer, we can see our own assets more clearly and more objectively.

A country’s brand cannot be improved overnight. If we hasten the process or if we are desperate to make short-term tangible results, it will be difficult to achieve this goal.

Few will disagree that creating a stronger national brand is an urgent job and that we must set an objective and evaluate the results as we go. The essence of a national brand is a country’s overall level of dignity.

Therefore, if we care too much about visible outputs that are immediately measurable, the method can become the goal itself.

It is meaningless if Koreans argue over whether our national brand has been improved or worsened. It is truly meaningful only when other countries acknowledge their respect for the Korean brand.

To be too engrossed in tangible results alone is to go against the global standard. This is an important factor to consider when we are working to improve Korea’s reputation in the world at large.


The writer is an executive adviser for Hyundai Rotem. He was a former ambassador to Hungary. Translation by the JoongAng Daily staff.

by Suh Dae-won
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