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Park Eun-Jee Totally Gets It

Park Eun-Jee? you ask. Who is she?

Well, she is the author of a current JoongAng Ilbo post on the Tourism Center in Apkujongdong (Gangnam) that was built next to the Hyundai Department Store. As Ms. Park points out, government-style thinking is much like Samsung’s often strange and misplaced advertising concept: it doesn’t work:

. . . A major reason for the center’s (tourism) disappointing reception appears to stem from an entrenched bureaucratic way of thinking, with officials offering tourists what they think foreigners should see, rather than responding to the interests of their visitors.

As the author points out, a tourist:

  • can’t touch costumes
  • can’t learn dance moves
  • can’t buy tickets to shows (since most ticket sites offer no help to non-Koreans)
  • can’t buy costumes or clothes that are hip
  • can’t learn about all K-pop stars (just a few)
  • can’t talk to medical clinic representatives on site

I would add visitors can’t sign up for interactive exhibits, for example, a live dance performance that tourists could participate in and take pictures or video of. I am surprised that there is not more of a theme-park approach to this center too.  I guess someone thought it was enough to put in a coffee franchise in there and no, they don’t need to turn it into a for-profit enterprise by putting in a casino because that is a short-sighted view of how to use a cultural marketing opportunity.

When I read Park’s article and see the truly bizarre advertising that comes out of Samsung or Hyundai overseas, this really tells me that the wrong people make decisions about how to market things that are “Korean”.  Maybe some of the people who are just now starting to be taken seriously in “big data” usage in Korea should be managing marketing efforts since their knowledge comes from data points from real people and not how “Kim middle-age-guy” grew up or learned from Korean corporate politics and culture.  Why not ask for recommendations from K-pop fan sites and find out directly from the people that would spend money to come here?

I must quote from the one piece of paper I keep at my desk, the one that never disappears from my desk, thanks to Marcel Proust:

The real voyage of discovery
lies not in seeking new landscapes,
but in having new eyes

It is in this way that the old becomes new again or that I can see my mistakes and successes in a different way.

What is also really interesting is how much interest in Korean entertainment there really is in the rest of the world but how little understanding there is, from Koreans, on how to cultivate this interest, IMHO.

About the author: Psst, want to buy some used marble cheap?

  • Anonymous_Joe

    Although I hate to give him props and the H/T because he can be such a douche about it,, but it seems like only three days ago (though it was really last year) that MH’s most prescient poster once again posted that Korean culture and the Confucian order not only fosters but also exacerbates such ajeosshis behaving badly. I hope for the new year that he tastes a piece of humble pie, though I suspect that he will do his customary virtual victory dance complete with pelvic thrusts. #GetaLife

  • George_Smiley

    Interesting post.

    10 points for the posh Proust passage…Starting 2014 very high-brow :).

    A decade and a half after Kim Yong Sam intoned his favorite word, “Globalization” ad infinitum to the camera and in the press…a Gangnam Tourist Ctr. is “in the beginning stages of business…”


    He goes on, “but with different programs and cooperation from entertainment companies we will extend the programs.”

    Oy, vey…
    Um…How about, for 2014, we DON’T commodify every single thing on this penninsula? How about the govt subsidized visitor center NOT become just another source of revenue for CJ Media and JYP and their ilk?

    This guy’s default response is to put the creative side in the hands of the entertainment marketing types who see everything as a potential revenue stream…constantly in search of that perfect profit bukkake.

    So, get paid (ostensibly to consult), rather than pay, for targeted advertising their own products and then, earn from the ticket sales.

    God forbid there be any info on poetry readings, small venue live jazz, Indy Music/film/art…

    Perhaps there is…but…

    There are a lot of presumptions in my post…maybe I’m thinking too conspiratorially. I can hardly hear myself think–what with the black helicopters outside my window.

    Anyway, I’m just hoping 2014 is different. –if only for the arts.

  • George_Smiley

    The superior man understands what is right; the inferior man understands what will sell.

  • seouldout

    the inferior man eats.


  • RElgin

    You have a cogent point about the attempt of so many to co-opt everything for the sake a revenue flow or Jesus or both.
    If the place were run more like a real fan of K-pop or even like a museum curator would run it, it would probably be awesome but, as it is, someone from Gangnam-gu, the same people that put a Samsung logo on a Korean patriot’s statue in return for money, are running this so, it is destined to suck horribly.

    The Gangnam-gu people could hire dancers and actors to flesh out new exhibits and put on promotional shows, hire local manufacturers to make costumes, create a revenue flow that helps put more Koreans to work – but they can’t seem to figure out how to do much of anything other than waste money and opportunity.

  • Anonymous_Joe

    RElgin: “…someone from Gangnam-gu, the same people that put a Samsung logo on a Korean patriot’s statue in return for money, are running this….”

    Think about that: the tin ears are with the people not only at Gangnam-gu but also at Samsung, who should have said ‘no’. The problem is that neither the people at Gangnam-gu nor the people at Samsung know that they’re tone deaf because their Korean audiences dare not audibly boo their performances. You’d think that a collective 50.000.000 strong tsk could raise a raucous, but no one dares.

    “…This Korean patriot-martyr brought to you by Samsung. You too can lead a ‘Samsung Life’. Now back to our show….”

  • Fapitalism

    If you think Korean audiences don’t boo Korean chaebol and gov’t bullshit, you must not read any Korean websites or newspapers.

  • Anonymous_Joe

    Apparently not loudly enough for their deaf, tin ears.

  • RElgin

    . . . dung and loves it.


    “….A major reason for the center’s (tourism) disappointing reception..”

    The major reason is tourists don’t need or use tourism centers.

  • flyingsword

    Korea, in general, is tourist unfriendly. Hard to find hotels or use their websites, hard to buy tickets for anything on line (need Korean ID for most sites). But everything is just a hassle….

  • Krystal Hampton

    Tourist unfriendly? Yes. I wonder how they are ‘regional wise’ in tourism. They should at least offer vacation packages in Chinese or Japanese. Outside of the region, I don’t think they’ll ever get their tourism up to the standard that Japan and China has. Geographicaly, historicaly, and socially Korea has been kept out of the international loop in that regard.

  • RElgin

    That is why the place needs a different direction and management, otherwise, it is a symbol of clueless waste. It should be a mini-museum of sorts.

  • RElgin

    That ID paranoia that the government has really kills online business in Korea, even if one gets past the language hurdle. How much more revenue could Korea generate if they were to push sites to dump that?! IMHO, the government has failed to establish better protocols and standards for web sites and security in South Korea – a failure that has a cost in lost revenue. Why can’t the government improve this instead of pushing customs to pilfer more luggage for a tax bite?

  • RElgin

    Now that I am thinking about it, there are other ways that the government completely fails the public, in terms of their management of cultural facilities.

    I have noticed that, at the Seoul Arts Center (SAC), in Seocho-Gu, there is at least one company that hires people to go around to the kiosks where printed material are displayed for recitals and concerts and these little gangsters deliberately throw out adverts for artists and shows and put up printed advertising for artists that pay them to put their adverts there. That means artists should now pay them for their “service” (protection) or their adverts will get tossed out. One other result of this is that I see more adverts for shows taped up outside of the building at crosswalks since there is this problem with the advert racks inside the center. I suppose someone will need to register a complaint with the police to fix this but since the government is involved, would that really help?

    So, not only has SAC gone up in the prices they charge artists to perform there, the artists now have a protection racket to contend with and the place is owned and managed by the government – the same people who are supposed to be supporting the arts but can’t help taking a bite out of the artists instead.

  • MikeinGyeonggi

    “What is also really interesting is how much interest in Korean entertainment there really is in the rest of the world but how little understanding there is, from Koreans, on how to cultivate this interest, IMHO.”

    I’m not sure much is needed to cultivate interest in Korean entertainment. There already is plenty of interest in it and this interest is self-maintaining K-pop and Korean dramas are popular around East Asia largely because they’re Asian and plentiful. A constant flood of catchy pop songs and formulaic TV shows flows out of Korea into other East Asian countries. The only thing to compete with it is Western media, but there is enough room in the market for both Western and Korean content to be profitable.

    As far as the rest of the world goes, do we have any real stats on the popularity of Korean music / TV? K-pop music will get played here and there because its catchy and the lip-syncers are attractive, but this appeal can only be stretched so far. I’m not sure how much additional interest there is to cultivate.

    Actually, the one area where more interest could be cultivated is Korean cinema. Korean movies are appealing and artistic. But the marketing approach in Korea – emphasis on leading actors – isn’t going to work outside of Asia. Westerners simply won’t find Won Bin and his ilk attractive. Now the actresses on the other hand….

  • guest
  • SalarymaninSeoul

    Speaking of actresses, why is Bae Dooooooo Naaaaaaaaa so damn ugly?

  • MikeinGyeonggi

    We’ll have to agree to disagree on that one. I like round faces.


    It shouldn’t be anything, it’s not necessary.
    The problem in Seoul is, and has always been, urban planning.
    For example, Cheonggyecheon as compared to Odori in Sapporo.
    Seoul was so intent on proving that there was once a stream running along the road they dug a trench and created a fake stream. They isolated a stream/park in the middle of the city when they should have created a park at ground level and made every effort to develop residential “neighborhoods” (not sliver tower apartment “towns”) on and around a park boulevard.
    Tourists want to experience life in the city with the locals, in the local neighborhoods, not in “tourist zones” or tourist centers, or “down there” in the tourist trench.

  • djson1

    She may not be that pretty, but I think she has her cute charms. I didn’t like her look that much during the first few moments in Cloud Atlas, but she had a charming quality as the film went on.

  • djson1

    I’m not sure how much of an impact this may have, but I know somebody who worked at the Korea Tourism Organization in LA and she said it was quite frustrating to work there as they rotated the head guys every 3 years from Korea. So, once a director actually learned anything relevant or useful (ie- working with local travel agencies and tour operators), he would be replaced by a newbie from Korea. Korean companies also do this all the time with their expats (ie- Korean banks) and it really limits their growth potential.

  • RElgin

    I am sure that they have their reasons for this but this is clearly a leak in the organization’s knowledge pool that directly affects how effective the organization is.

  • wangkon936

    RE: Samsung’s advertising “concept.”

    A lot like 90′s era Mentos commercials, but more aggressive.

  • wangkon936

    She looked convincingly Caucasian in her 16th century reincarnation. Ah, the miracle of make-up.

  • RElgin

    Did you see the creepy voyeur advert for their Galaxy Gear?
    The actor was doing exactly what the police in Pusan claim is illegal for people to do – taking sneak shots with a camera of women without permission.

  • wangkon936

    Yes, but I think you are being a bit selective. Samsung and Hyundai are class leaders in sales outside Korea, so their marketing/advertising must be somewhat effective overall.

    For example, I thought this overall Samsung campaign was clever:


    The Hyundai Super Bowl commercials are usually pretty competent too:


    This one by KIA was considered one of the best commercials in 2010:


  • SalarymaninSeoul

    She is totally devoid of any charm.

  • SeoulGoodman

    But, but, but, Korea is the hub of hubs!?

    In all seriousness…Yeah, I’m so sick and tired about how the local corporations (and government) rely on nationalism to sell whatever they are selling. That why the last car I bought was European-made…that and I didn’t want to repeat the mistake of paying good money for a shitty car (Korean cars sold here are made to lower standards than the ones assembled in North America). My wife (yes, she’s Korean) and I have already drawn up a list of cars we’ll test drive after moving to North America later this year, and we both agree that we’re not even going to look at Korean cars (top of the list are the Jeep Cherokee for my wife/as a family car and the Fiat Abarth for me).

  • SeoulGoodman

    And the safety measures for internet banking are ridiculous. I have transferred from here tens of thousands of dollar from my foreign bank account without any problems, but I have to enter two separate passwords once logged in my Korean bank account in order to transfer a small amount of money locally? Such redundancy is simply ridiculous.

  • http://www.eslwriting.org/ eslwriter

    A top city hall official in Busan once told me that frequent rotation of managerial staff makes the system as a whole stronger. He did recognize that the (sic) American of system of job specialization has its merits, though he believed that the jack of all trades approach offers more advantages in sum.

    Never really understood how people on a constant learning curve makes the system stronger.