South Korea’s Culture Ministry has unveiled “Creative Korea” as the country’s newly-minted national slogan, replacing the long-running “Dynamic Korea,” which was used since 2002.
Choosing the word “creative” as the keyword of the country’s brand campaign is not without its share of irony considering that South Korea has built one of the world’s strongest economies as a fast follower, not as a creative powerhouse.
But, that seems to be exactly the point.
When announcing the new slogan, officials were quite forthright that South Korea is not looking to adhere to the standard practice of branding itself for what it is, but rather branding itself for what it would like to be.
“Creativity reflects the direction that the country wants to move in,” said Kim Jong-deok, Minister of Culture, Sports and Tourism during the announcement. “The new brand slogan promotes the value that the Republic of Korea upholds and an image that the country wants to promote abroad.”
While the country is by no means lacking in creative talent, positioning its brand outside the box of people’s current perceptions is a risky prospect –not only imposing on people to look at you differently, but requiring that Korea live up to the lofty brand promise it has now made to the world.
If they can do it in the coming years, then all good, says Michael Breen, CEO of Seoul-based Insight Communications Consultants.
“The idea of a brand is that it should capture a core strategy of a company or country in this case. If the core strategy of Korea going forward is creativity — creative economy, creativity in arts and education and valuing individuals — the new brand fits Korea’s strategies,” Breen told the Korea Times.
The government chose the new slogan and logo following a series of nationwide polls asking citizens what they thought best represented, “Koreanness.”
“Some 1.2 million keywords that citizens voted to represent Korea were grouped into three representative words — creativity, passion and harmony,” said Kim.
That’s a lot of keywords.
However, the ministry announced that, “while (the word) ‘passion’ was the driving force of building today’s Korea from the ashes of the 1950-53 Korean War, ‘creativity’ is a value that the country should pursue to move itself forward to cope with changing demands of the time,” reports Yonhap.
I SEOUL U
This marks the second time in less than a year that Korea has seen its destination branding strategy at the center of debate, following last year’s release of the widely-criticized “I SEOUL U” slogan for the capital city of Seoul.
However, with “I SEOUL U” and it’s perplexing meaning, there is no brand promise to live up to. With “Creative Korea” the gauntlet is laid –now the pressure is on for the country to deliver the goods.
Otherwise, it’s just another word.
“Overuse of the word ‘creative’ can lead to de-valuing,” said Jacco Zwetsloot, director of business innovation at Korean law firm Hwang Mok Park. “It can become like ‘freedom’ in the United States as a kind of blank slate signifier for anything positive. It also leaves Korea open to critical evaluations by outsiders — how creative Korea really is.”