Brand Korea’s 10-point action plan unveiled

South Korea is the world’s 13th largest economy. It has emerged as a global leader in information technology, boasting the highest rate of Internet use, has reknown multinational brands and its pop culture has enjoyed a boom abroad, especially in Asia. However, the country still does not have a brand value that matches this reality. According to a survey by Simon Anholt’s Nation Brands index, the country’s brand value is estimated at less than 30 percent of its gross domestic product in 2007, while the United States’ nation brand was assessed to be worth 143 percent of its GDP and Japan’s 224 percent.

Its global image is far behind what Koreans think the nation deserves. To raise the country’s global image, the Korean government in January 2009 launched in a nation branding project, a project has informed about here, here and here. Last week, the President of the Council on Korea’s Nation Branding, Euh Yoon-dae, said in its first report to the country’s president Lee Myung-bak that the project will consist of a 10-point action plan.

The 10 points of Branding Korea Action Plan are the following:

  1. To promote taekwondo – The government will launch a project to promote the country’s most popular martial art, taekwondo.
  2. To dispatch 3,000 volunteers abroad every year – The council will launch next month the “Korean Supporters’,’ a Peace Corps-like program that dispatches over 3,000 volunteers overseas every year, the second largest after some 8,000 from the United States. Some 2,000 South Koreans go abroad as volunteers every year, already the third largest group after Americans and Japanese, but their services are rarely linked to the country as they are dispatched by individual organizations.
  3. To adopt “Korean Wave” program – Seoul will actively share its development experience with developing nations to launch what it calls the “Korean wave,” named after the spreading popularity of Korean pop-culture across Asia. Korea will provide underdeveloped countries technical assistance to help their economies move forward based on its past achievement of double-digit economic growth during the industrialization period.
  4. To introduce Global Korea scholarship – A new scholarship program, “Global Korea Scholarship”, will be established for foreign exchange students to help improve the country’s image among foreign students and scholars.
  5. To adopt “Campus Asia” program – A separate program, through which South Korea will seek to develop and recruit young, outstanding workers and academicians, and will target students from neighboring Asian countries.
  6. To increase external aid – Korea will send more aid workers to meet the global humanitarian needs.
  7. To develop state-of-the-art technologies – Korea will try to showcase to the world its technologic advancement by reaching to high-tech milestones which should hit the international media.
  8. To nurture culture and tourism industries – Among the initiatives, the government will unify Korean language institutes across the world under the name “King Sejong Institute’ (named after the Joseon Kingdom monarch who spearheaded the invention of the Korean alphabet hangeul), and will better manage the growing number of foreigners wanting to learn the Korean language.
  9. To treat foreigners and multi-cultural families better – A campaign to foster better etiquette and improve hospitality. This is aimed at making Korea a more pleasant country to visit.
  10. To help Koreans become “global citizens” – Smooth Koreans’ attitude to the world and focus on Korea’s traditional nationalism and anti-Americanism.

Most of the projects cited may not appear new to most Koreans, because many of them already exist or were undertaken in the past. The main difference now is that the various programs that are run by different ministries and agencies will now be better coordinated and managed.

“Brand Korea” objective too ambitious?

According to the President of the Council on Korea’s Nation Branding, Euh Yoon-dae, this 10-points action plan’s ultimate objective is to lift Korea’s ranking on the Anholt’s Nation Brands Index (NBI) to the 15th position over a period of 4 years, 18 notches upwards from the current 33rd. “Korea is the world’s 13th largest economy with some $20,000 in per capita income, but ranks only 33rd in the global brand index. This is a big problem,” President Lee said. Denmark currently ranks 15th in the global ranking of nation brands, so is it realistic to assume that Korea can occupy that spot in 2013?

Simon Anholt, himself the creator of the NBI, has evaluated this objective as too ambitious. Anholt said most of the 10 initiatives listed are good and solid, but he is skeptical on whether the plan would lift Korea’s ranking from 33rd to 15th place by 2013 as the government intends. “Whether or not they will really lift Korea’s ranking in the NBI by 18 places in four years is quite another matter,” he said.

Simon Anholt said that national brand is not something that can be suddenly elevated over a short period of time as promised. “No country has ever moved by more than one or two places in the national brand index, and in any case this isn’t the proper way of using the index,” Anholt said in an interview with The Korea Times.

Instead of overall score, Anholt advised Korea to look in much more detail at Korea’s performance in certain individual sectors of the NBI such as people, culture or governance. He also advised the government to sharpen its strategy by clarifying what will distinguish or characterize Korea from all the other countries that do similar things, and what will Korea stand for, underlining these things are the most important when shared and endorsed.

Of course, finding a way to measure the success of a nation branding project is very appropiate but, do you think that position in the NBI is the best way to measure the success or failure of a nation branding project?