By Han Sang-hee
Many events, organizations and public groups hire celebrities, both popular and up-and-coming, to act as spokespersons and goodwill ambassadors, and the reason is simple: They attract attention.
``It's all about the attention effect. The main goal for an advertisement or a promotion would be actual purchasing or participation. But before that, you have to attract people to get them involved. Hiring big stars is indeed one of the most effective ways to catch the public's attention,'' professor Kang Seung-koo of the Media Arts and Science Department at Korea Open University told The Korea Times.
One of the busiest stars here, Rain, already has three commercial contracts under his belt. He holds two important posts, as spokesman for both Seoul City and ``hansik,'' or Korean food, tapped by the Ministry of Food, Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries.
``There have been various offers, and we choose depending on the image and cause. Rain always mentioned that he wanted to promote Korea and the culture as much as he could, and promoting Seoul and hansik seemed like a good way to start,'' an official from Rain's agency J.Tune Entertainment told The Korea Times.
``Rain topped the Time 100 Poll, Time magazine's online poll of the 100 most influential people of the year, in 2007 and he has a movie coming out that will premiere worldwide. He's not only well known in Asia, but he has also started to attract attention in other parts of the world as well,'' said Kim Jeong-wook, a public information officer at the ministry, adding that the singer will participate in events to promote Korean food.
Numerous other celebrities have used their celebrity for more personal causes.
Veteran actress Ko Doo-shim was appointed a goodwill ambassador for her home region of Jeju Island. Ko has participated in various events and festivals for the island and worked to further promote the island she calls home. Recently, she was appointed as cultural ambassador for the 3rd Delphic Games that will be held on Jeju.
Actress Park Eun-hye was hired to help promote Incheon through the 2009 Incheon Korean Wave Festival and Yoon So-na does the same for Jeonju, North Jeolla Province. Park was born and raised in Incheon, and Yoon in Jeonju
Singer Kang Won-rae serves as the spokesman for the National Rehabilitation Center. Kang was left paralyzed from the waist down in a motorcycle accident in 2000, and took on the role after he overcame the tragedy and maintained his position as a star. He supports physically challenged children and participates in various volunteer and welfare programs, according to the center.
In the case of Kim Jung-eun, who became the goodwill ambassador for the Gwangju Kimchi Cultural Festival 2009, her appointment was a win-win strategy for both the event and her work. The festival committee said they have signed a contract to support Kim's upcoming film ``Le Grand Chef 2: Kimchi Wars'' (working title), which will help the movie, and kimchi, gain recognition.
Being named to such a role is one thing, but maintaining the post successfully is a complete different matter. While some stars just lend their names as promoters, others actually do their best to fully accomplish the job.
Actress Han Ji-min is one of them. She has been continuously supporting the Korean branch of international relief agency JTS ever since she was appointed as its spokeswoman from 2007. She recently visited the Philippines to support under privileged children, where she taught, cooked and even danced with them.
Even fans have stepped up to do their part for the causes their favorite stars promote. Members of pop group Super Junior's fan club, Elf, donated blood donation tickets, money, ramyeon and even rice to support under privileged children and premature infants.
``As (the stars') final goal is to promote the event or organization, it all depends on how they follow up after being noticed. Once they've attracted attention, they must encourage the public to be involved in what they are promoting, which is much more than just smiling and having photos taken,'' Kang advised.