‘Regional strategy holds key to effective hallyu promotion‘
By Do Je-hae
A state-run overseas PR agency, the Korea Culture and Information Service (KOCIS) has been spreading national interests for more than four decades.
The wave otherwise known as “hallyu” has been a compelling source of motivation for the agency, but it has brought along new challenges in promoting Korea to the outside world.
"I find that countries have varying preferences for hallyu products," Woo Jin-yung said during a meeting with the press Monday. "Developing countries tend to display more interest in our pop culture or TV dramas. On the other hand, advanced nations seem to be keener to know about traditional things that start with the word han, such as hanbok (Korean dress) or hansik (Korean food)."
"This is why we need to work more extensively on a promotional strategy for hallyu that reflects varying preferences per region," Woo added. "When I was with the Korean Cultural Service in New York, hansik seemed to be the most popular of Korea's cultural assets."
A career civil servant with the culture ministry, he was appointed as the new head of KOCIS in March, following a two-year tenure as the chief executive of the National Library of Korea.
Promotional book projects
Woo displayed a particular interest in using books to further promote Korea to the rest of the world.
"One of the most useful books in this regard has been Facts About Korea. Someday, we would like to publish an electronic version so that people everywhere can learn about our country," Woo said.
The KOCIS published "Facts About Korea" in 2004. The pocket-sized book, containing 70 color photos with maps, examines the history, people, culture, customs, economy, sports and other aspects of Korea. The English-language book is currently available on online stores like Amazon.
Another important book project of KOCIS is the forthcoming publication on the history of hallyu and the role of KOCIS in its dissemination.
"We will publish an English-language book on the definition, history and achievements of the hallyu movement," Woo said.
In light of the increasing popularity in Korea, Woo stressed the need for the nation to help the international community.
"One of the main goals of my time at KOCIS is to promote Korea's economic development model as a benchmark for underdeveloped countries," Woo said. "
Demand for greater services within overseas Korean culture centers is increasing, with the sweeping success of “hallyu."
"When I talk to foreign journalists, some of them have asked me to establish Korean culture centers in their countries," Woo said.
An affiliate of the culture ministry, KOCIS was formerly in charge of operating 24 Korean culture centers. But since the beginning of the year, the culture ministry has taken over this task so that the KOCIS can focus more on creating quality contents and methods for online and offline promotions of Korea.
The agency has had a busy year with various international events taking place. Its biggest-ever project will take place ahead of and during the London Olympic Games.
The KOCIS will organize a 100-day promotional campaign for Korea entitled “All Eyes on Korea @London Olympics" from June 2 to Sept. 9. Renowned artists including soprano Jo Su-mi, maestro Chung Myung-hwun, pansori singer Lee Ja-ram and fashion designer Lie Sang-bong, will take part.
"We are extremely excited about this project. The Korean Cultural Service in London has a very strong background in developing unique ideas for promoting our country," Woo said.
In 2010, the Korean Cultural Service in London organized a charity event involving renowned Korean painters, who donated their works to be sold at Sotheby's. Proceeds went to support overseas war veterans who had fought in the Korea War (1950-1953). The event was to mark the 60th anniversary of the war that continues to divide the Korean Peninsula to this day.
"That was a great example of how a Korean culture center could help others while promoting our country at the same time," Woo said.
Woo holds an MA in Art Management from the City University in London. He formerly served as the director of the Korean Cultural Service in New York and culture ministry spokesman in 2007. Since 2010, he has been a Ph.D. candidate in IT Policy & Management at Soongsil University.