Whenever I land in a foreign country I tend to anticipate what I am going to see and feel there – the quintessential landmarks, exotic atmosphere, the weather and the people.

China reminds me of its taste-bud pleasing food and history; the United Kingdom enchants me with Harry Potter, Big Ben, the Royal Family, and the weather, while Australia beckons with its nature and unique animals. However, when it comes to my home country, South Korea, it is really difficult to pin down its distinctive feature.

Don’t get me wrong. That does not mean the country is dull and plain. Thanks to talented individuals like Yuna Kim, colourful K-pop groups, and troublesome neighbours up north, South Korea is slowly being recognised in the global stage, but as just another Asian country, though.

Apparently, billions of won (Korean currency) were channelled into devising a tourism slogan in an effort to differentiate South Korea from other publicly established Asian countries and highlight its existence and beauty to potential visitors. Unfortunate as it is, however hard they rack their brains the resulting slogan does not seem to meet expectations.

‘Dynamic Korea’, which was introduced in 2001 summoned sceptics who argued that it sounded like ‘dynamite Korea’ when considering the hostile situation with the North and occasional internal remonstrations. The superseding 2007 slogan ‘Sparkling Korea’ drew a lukewarm response with foreigners misguidedly asking if Korea was a major producer of sparkling water. The most recent attempt in 2014, ‘Imagine your Korea’ proves to be yet again unsuccessful as it too invited confusion amongst the public. Despite its aim to attract tourists by letting them imagine what Korea would be, Koreans and foreigners alike are puzzled, saying that it is by far the worst as they ‘do not know what to imagine in the first place’.

Other countries seem to have a firm grasp of how to capture foreigners’ attention. Egypt displays ‘Where it all begins’ to advertise itself as the origin of civilization, India experiments with letters to create ‘Incredible !ndia’ and Slovenia uses a unique stylised word combination to form ‘I FEEL sLOVEnia’.

If I were to say what I have been asked most often during my stay in foreign countries, it would be whether I am from China or Japan. When I come up with a completely different answer from the given two choices, another specified question is raised along with an apology. This time, they ask whether the country is north or south. If South Korea does not wish to be further overshadowed by adjacent nations, it is high time that it devised a new tourism slogan that captures something unique.

Almost all of the previous promotion videos and slogan explanations basically ‘list’ what Korea has: food, nature, tradition, and B-boying. This hardly captures the charm of South Korea nor does it enchant foreigners enough to want to know more. Korean Tourism Organisation’s new proper slogan should tell a story to the people. It should shed light on real people and real assets, how feisty yet warm Koreans are, how vibrant the country is and link all this in an intriguing manner.

Ultimately, the slogan must be one which Koreans and foreigners can agree upon. It would act as a bridge that connects the insider and outsider, summoning pleasant memories that bring a smile to anyone who has experienced the ‘unimaginable’ in Korea.







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