chair of the Presidential Council on Nation Branding (PCNB)
By Kim Young-jin
Recent scrutiny on North Korea by the international media has worsened problems associated with South Korea’s image, but the upcoming G20 summit in Seoul is a chance to set the record straight, the nation’s new branding chief said Wednesday.
“The frequent confusion between South and North Korea and global coverage on the North often undermine efforts to enhance our brand awareness,” Lee Bae-yong, chair of the Presidential Council on Nation Branding (PCNB), told an international forum in Seoul.
In particular, coverage of the North’s hereditary power succession from Kim Jong-il to his youngest son, now underway, has had an “alarming” effect on the South’s image, said Lee who was named to the post in September.
Despite its status as chair of the upcoming summit, South Korea often suffers from cases of mistaken identity such as information on the nationality of athletes and mail intended for North Korean embassies being sent to those of the South, the 63-year-old said.
“Given the circumstances, the G20 summit will be a colossal opportunity to advance South Korea’s global prestige,” she said. The PCNB is preparing programs to help leaders participating in the summit deepen their understanding of Korea’s culture and history. The gathering opens Nov. 11.
Since taking the reins of the council, Lee has focused on public relations abroad to upgrade the national image, attempting to bring its cultural reputation up to par with its standing as the world’s 14th largest economy.
“Using Korea’s economic progress ― its hard power ― as a foundation, soft power elements such as Korea’s history and culture will be promoted,” Lee, a former president of Ewha Womans University, told the forum.
The council has also launched a campaign in conjunction with the foreign ministry to correct false information and inaccurate representations of Korea throughout the world. It also seeks to do the same in foreign textbooks.
The forum was co-hosted by the PCNB at the Grand Hilton Hotel and invited scholars and media representatives to discuss ways to enhance the national image.
The council was created in January last year to overhaul Korea’s existing overseas PR activities and create a better image abroad for Korean culture and products.
Other projects include expanding exchange programs with underdeveloped countries, strengthening the education of globally accepted norms and etiquette among citizens here, and globalizing Korea’s food and language.