The Korea Foundation hosted its second international conference on nation branding on August 13, in Jeju Island.
The conference was held as the follow-up to the first KF nation branding conference in November last year. For this second edition, the conference was held at Jeju Haevichi Hotel & Resort, in conjunction with the fifth Jeju Peace Forum, which was organized by the Jeju Special Self-Governing Province, International Peace Foundation, and East Asia Foundation, on August 11~13. The Jeju Peace Forum, held bi-annually since 2001, has become an important forum for discussing the most important political and economic issues and phenomena in the East and Northeast Asian region. This year, the Forum was sponsored by eight organizations, including the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade, Ministry of Land, Transport and Maritime Affairs, Presidential Council on Future & Vision, and Northeast Asian History Foundation, as well as the Korea Foundation, and featured keynote speeches by Prime Minister Han Seung-soo and the UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon.
The nation branding conference was organized and hosted by the Korea Foundation over three sessions on the third day of the Jeju Peace Forum. Participants in this year’s conference included Simon Anholt, who is widely recognized as the one who originated the concept of “national brand” and who is the author of the Anholt Nation Brands Index;
Euh Yoon-dae, the chairman of the Presidential Council on Nation Branding; Yim Sung-joon, the president of the Korea Foundation; Cho Dong-sung, professor of business at Seoul National University; Keith Dinnie, professor of business at Temple University Japan Campus and the author of Nation Branding: Concepts, Issues, Practice; Chang Seejeong, director of the Korea International Cooperation Agency (KOICA), and other leading specialists in nation branding from Korea and abroad.
“Nation branding” is a relatively new idea, borrowed from the product branding principle of marketing.
It is an idea that countries, and not just business products, have “brand” qualities that are known throughout the world and work either for or against the particular countries in the international stage, be it in the areas of business, culture, or politics. The images and reputations of countries in the minds of other peoples in the world are formed by complex series of events, experiences, and media influences, and there are differing views on how much these brand qualities can be improved or controlled by setting up plans and strategies. It is generally agreed, however, that countries can indeed do things that contribute to bettering their reputations abroad, even though what those things may be are under greater debate. Therefore, it is a big challenge for any country to develop a coherent nation branding strategy, given the complexity involved and the large number of stakeholders who have a direct interest in the nation brand.
In the first Korea Foundation conference on nation branding, which was one of the first large-scale conferences held on the topic in Korea, discussions and presentations included mainly the general review of the principles and concepts involved in the topic, for the purpose of introduction and clarification. For the second conference this year, the three sessions comprised of, first, one plenary session with discussions on the current issues and trends of nation branding in the global context, and two concurrent sessions on two of the most important and prominent areas of nation branding – international cooperation and economy. In the plenary session, chaired by Ambassador Yim Sung-joon, the president of the Korea Foundation, Dr. Euh Yoon-dae, the chairman of the Presidential Council on Nation Branding, gave the keynote speech, setting out the visions and strategies of Korea’s nation branding goals as worked out by the Presidential Council. Simon Anholt presented the current trends in nation branding, how the initial efforts and strategies of various countries to raise their brand images in a short period has taught them to work more on their actual infrastructures and longer-term goals. Bernard Spitz, a French national, shared his country’s perception of Korea and recommended the cultivation of national culture, landmarks, products, and personalities that can appeal to foreign audiences.
The concurrent session on the topic of international cooperation was chaired by Oh Joon, the Deputy Minister for Multilateral and Global Affairs at Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade. In the presentations, Chang See-jeong of KOICA discussed Korea’s activities and role in sharing the responsibilities of the international community to alleviate and resolve global issues and problems. Nicholas Cull, a professor at University of Southern California, saw Korea’s situation from a more broader perspective of public diplomacy. Choi Jung-wha of Hankuk University of Foreign Studies emphasized that Korea must take on the existing values and expand the positive methods of delivering them to the international audience.
The last concurrent session of the conference was chaired by Cho Dong-sung and discussed Korea’s strengths in economic development. Keith Dinnie discussed the importance of Korea in positioning itself in the global economic scene and to adopt from the positive reputations of Korean multinational companies to the strategies of nation branding. Park Sarng-koon of Interbrand reiterated the importance of integrating corporate brands and national industry brands with the overall national brand. Han C. Min of Hanyang University discussed Korea’s needs to set specific values and identity of the nation in the branding project. Park Tae-ho of Seoul National University set out strategies of Korea to be more actively involved to raise its status in the global trading system.
Lively discussions followed the presentations, from the issue of legitimacy of nation “branding” in the first place, to Korea’s realistic goals and possibilities of success in the area, to the values and methods to be utilized for raising the national brand and status in the international arena.
The Korea Foundation, as a leading public diplomacy organization in Korea, has worked to increase understanding of Korea abroad through promoting cultural and intellectual exchanges between Koreans and foreigners, sponsoring Korea-related researches at foreign educational institutions, and producing various print and media materials. As a national brand is becoming increasingly important in a country’s international status in this globalized wor ld, the Korea Foundat ion is working t o contribute to raising the positive images for Global Korea brand.