Frenzy of Taegukgi marketingAs I was walking on the Sejong-daero of central Seoul around 1 p.m. on Monday, I felt dizzy, because of the large national flags hung on the facades of most buildings along the road. It was the first time I’ve ever seen so many national flags at once. The government started a movement to hang the flags to mark the 70th anniversary of Liberation Day, and participants have gotten on board from various sectors, making it a nationwide phenomenon.
Companies are particularly enthusiastic. On the Samsung Life Insurance building in Seocho District, a national flag and a slogan covered the entire building.
The slogan said, “70th anniversary of liberation! United one, we are the Republic of Korea forever.”
Hyundai Motor Group also hung a large national flag on its headquarters building in Gye-dong, central Seoul, with a slogan that said “A great journey, a new challenge.”
LG Group hung national flags on the LG Twin Towers in Yeouido and its Gwanghwamun building.
Lotte Group also hung a giant national flag, 36 by 24 meters (118 by 79 feet) in size, on the 70th floor of Lotte World Tower in Jamsil, passionately promoting it.
Critics said the business groups are trying to use the flags to improve their images and please the government. Lotte Group, whose owner family is having a fight to control the company, and conglomerates whose owners are convicted of crimes and hoping to receive special pardons are particularly being criticized.
After a large supermarket chain promised to hang national flags at its nationwide stores and hand the flags out to customers, critics said the company is using the country as marketing material.
The business community said the criticisms were unfair. Lotte said it consulted with relevant government offices two months ago about the giant flag, well before the ownership dispute started. Other companies also complained that they became wary of joining the movement forward due to the criticisms.
It was strange to see the floods of national flags, but it was also strange to see the criticisms. Until now, we often deplored the public indifference about hanging flags for national holidays. The media had often published photos of large apartment complexes where only a couple flags hung out on national holidays.
The criticism toward the flag campaigns is based on Koreans’ passiveness about flying the flags. In the United States and other European countries, national flags are often hung not only at the government offices, but in many places including fashion outlets.
During the 2002 World Cup, the national flag was seen everywhere in Korea, including in fashion, as a manifestation of Korean pride. But it was a short-lived trend.
The 70th anniversary of Korea’s liberation from Japan is an important national holiday. We must use this opportunity to fly the national flag more confidently and make it a part of daily life.
The author is a business news reporter of the JoongAng Ilbo.
JoongAng Ilbo, Aug. 11, Page 29
by MOON MYUNG-JOO