Business Community Seeking Inspiration in Figure Skating Star
Larger than life: In Korea, where she is as popular as air, Kim Yu-na doubles as a transcendent sports star and advertisement queen.
/ Korea Times
By Kim Tae-gyu
The Olympic flame was extinguished a week ago but the fever for Korean figure-skating star Kim Yu-na, who topped the podium with record-breaking performances in the Vancouver games, continues to heat up the country.
In particular, large corporations in Asia's fourth-largest economy are spearheading the Kim Yu-na craze, praising the professionalism and perseverance that she demonstrated in winning the gold medal.
Observers liken the sensation to that for Guus Hiddink, who led the Korean team to the semifinals of the 2002 World Cup. Back then, a flurry of businessmen competed to imitate his efficient leadership.
This time around, the Korea National Oil Corp. Chief Executive Officer Kang Young-won initiated the corporate enthusiasm of trying to learn something from the 19-year-old heroine.
``We have watched Kim jump toward perfectionism despite heavy burdens on her slender shoulders. We are now in a transitional phase for growth just like she was,'' Kang said in a ceremony of celebrating the 31st anniversary of the entity early last week.
``By achieving the capability of producing 500,000 barrels of oil and providing a million barrels a day, we need to become as beloved here as Kim did.''
Lotte Department Store, the nation's top department store chain, asked its managers to emulate the professionalism shown by Kim during its recent monthly meeting.
``Kim successfully overcame the challenges of winning the Olympic gold medal after topping the World Championship. Likewise, we encourage our officials to establish new goals and put forth innovative efforts to attain them,'' a Lotte spokeswoman said.
The struggling Ssangyong Motor, the country's smallest carmaker ― currently under a debt workout program ― set Kim as a role model in recovering from its hardship.
``Kim soared to supremacy after going through many failures and breakdowns. We face some troubles right now but we will be able to revive our company by tiding over all the difficulties,'' a Ssangyong Motor official said.
Kim Yu-na Marketing
Some local firms are already reaping fruits thanks to Kim since no matter what items associated with her sells briskly from cheap accessories to expensive cars and home appliances.
Included in the beneficiaries are Korea's flagship firms such as Samsung Electronics and Hyundai Motor, which sponsored Kim before she won Korea's first Olympic medal in figure skating.
Samsung has chalked up fast growth in the sales of its air conditioners over the past few weeks thanks in large part to a commercial featuring Kim.
Should the strong sales continue, the company expects it will catch up with perennial leader LG Electronics this year on the domestic air conditioner market.
Another main sponsor of Kim, Hyundai Motor is looking to take advantage of her brand power to enhance its global awareness. Hyundai is the world's sixth-largest carmaker together with its sister company Kia Motors.
Maeil Dairies, the country's main manufacturer of dairy products for which Kim modeled, is also thinking of extending its sponsorship contract with the star as it too racked up increased sales.