South Korea’s PR Campaign of Hope Leading up to Friday’s Summit with North Korea

Image handout from the Korean government.

Leading up to Friday’s big summit between North Korean leader Kim Jong Un and South Korean President Moon Jae-in, South Korea has been pumping money into a sizable public relations campaign under the tagline, “Peace, a New Start”.

The campaign, spread across the social media platforms of agencies on both the local and national level, is largely a brand message of hope and optimism aimed at the people of the South, but the Ministry of Foreign Affairs also launched paid Twitter posts asking the world to “cheer us on” reports NK News.


The South Korean Presidential “Blue House” even partnered with Twitter to create a special emoji for the one-month-only hashtag:


North Korea Rebrand

Purely from a branding standpoint, the campaign is an interesting, and wise move on two publicity fronts.

One is the chance to promote South Korea internationally – a country that, despite its merits and impressive achievements in recent decades, is still often recognized by most of the world in association with its universally disliked northern neighbor.

On a second, and more important front, the PR campaign is a must for the South Korean government to get its own people behind the movement towards peace, and, in a possibly distant scenario, reunification.

This is no easy task and basically amounts to a complete rebrand of previous negative government messaging regarding the oppressive and unwieldy Kim dynasty in the North into one that is a positive, optimistic “we’re all brothers and sisters” kind of thing.

To put a fine point on it, if there ever is reunification, the people of the South will bear the vast majority of the costs to make it happen – thus framing the right message becomes all the more important.

Domestic Campaign

A banner hanging outside Seoul City Hall reads, “South and North together in peace, Seoul Metropolitan government lends a hand.”

Also at the local level, the port city of Busan’s police department released a video heralding similarities between the country’s police forces.

Sure, it’s a huge stretch to compare a brutal North regime to South Korea’s largely peaceful police forces, but they stick to images of the North Korean women traffic cops that the whole world seems to adore to keep the messaging on point.


The Seoul Instagram account launched a video showing the meeting room where the leaders will gather along with different languages saying, “Nice to meet you”.

Most interesting is how the post is punctuated by the caption heralding that this summit won’t need an interpreter.

Another nod to what the two nations, still officially at war, share in common.

Along with Kpop stars, Korean celebrities and South Korean Olympians chimed in with wishes of support for a successful summit.

Fan art entered the conversation as well.

A post shared by Magenta Kang (@magentakang) on

And even kids are in on the expressions of hope and optimism.

Japan issues complaint

The Japanese government, however, has expressed their displeasure over government promoted images of the Korean peninsula being used for the summit.

For the special occasion of the meeting, South Korea paid for custom-made furniture with the official chairs featuring disputed islands controlled by Korea but claimed by Tokyo. The South Korean presidential office release of the photos drew the issuing of a complaint from the Japanese government.

A photo issued by the South Korean Presidential shows the Korean peninsula with disputed islands to the east on the backrest.

Another photo released by the presidential office showing the summit’s mango cake dessert elicited more objections from the Japanese government – as it too shows the disputed territory in the Sea of Japan – which Korea calls the “East Sea”.

Complaints from the neighbors aside, the summit tomorrow is all about the peninsula getting its house in order and bringing together two nations divided by the cold war geopolitical ambitions of superpowers.

The summit between the two nations, if nothing else, offers a historic chance to sit down for some friendly conversation over mango cake and possibly bond over their mutual distaste for Japan – which occupied the entire peninsula for nearly half a century.

Where will it all lead?

Not everyone is optimistic about the outcome, however.

Speaking to NK News, long-time North Korean observer Andrei Lankov expressed his concerns over how the summit and the South’s ebullient campaign of hope will play out.

“I see a huge wave of optimism which is partially sincere, but at least partially encouraged by the government,” said Lankov. “Will it backfire when the sorry reality begins obviously again?”

Lankov added, “Perhaps, people will get burned in a more painful way because of exaggerated expectations, but right now the ROK government does not care that much.”


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