Who chose them anyway?

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Who chose them anyway?

“If civil servants make it, it will surely be bad.” The advertisement campaign was often seen on the boards in subway stations around Seoul since July. The City of Seoul wants contributions from the public to make a new brand for the city. A city official said that it was a manifestation of the will that the city wants to have a brand created by the people. But somehow, when three finalists were announced on Oct. 2, the overwhelming response on social media was “All three are strange.” On Oct. 28, “I.Seoul.U” was chosen, and parodies of the slogan spread. “I.Seoul.U” means “I will raise the rent excessively.” “I.Incheon.U” means “I will make you saddled with debt.”

The plan to replace “Hi Seoul,” which was created in 2002, with a new catchphrase was announced in July, and people wondered why the branding needed to be changed when it requires 1.4 billion won ($1.2 million). Some argued that the motivation was to undo the legacy of former President Lee Myung-bak, as Hi Seoul was created during his mayoral term. Mayor Park Won-soon argued that the city wanted to have a brand for the people, initiated by the people. At a press meeting, he said, “I personally liked ‘Seouling,’ but my opinion was not reflected at all. The people of Seoul are entrusted with all the decision-making power.”

But if you look at the process of creating the brand, “I.Seoul.U” cannot be considered a brand entirely created by the people. The key process began on Sept. 1. Among the 16,000 ideas submitted in the competition, redundant ideas or names that showed signs of plagiarism were filtered, and 400 were selected.

But the public participated for only one day, while the 400 ideas were filtered down to three. From Sept. 1 to 2, 200 of the 400 were selected, and 422 Korean and foreign volunteers participated in the process. Can their choice be considered the voices of 10 million people in Seoul? The Branding Committee and the city’s contractors conducted the process of selecting three finalists from the 200.

Public participation has always been the core value of Park Won-soon’s Seoul. But it seems that the participation of the people was a formality to show off public participation in the process of changing Seoul’s brand. It may have been better if the people could participate through online voting. Then, people wouldn’t have wondered, “Who chose them anyway?” when the finalists were supposedly “chosen by the people.”

The author is a national news reporter of the JoongAng Ilbo.

JoongAng Ilbo, Nov. 2, Page 29

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