Don’t often get long articles on South Korea in The Economist, but apparently tomorrow (the article is strangely dated into the future: January 17th) they will publish an article about Korean economic nationalism. Yes, good old fashion economic nationalism! Everybody has it, but Korea’s version seems to be a bit more, how shall we say? Focused, aggressive and pervasive? Yeah, that will work.
When South Korean celebrities, eager to prove their patriotism, swapped their German BMW cars for home-grown Hyundais on television, during the Asian financial crisis in 1998, they rallied the whole nation behind domestic products. To wean South Koreans off their Coke and Pepsi, a local firm launched “815 cola”, commemorating Korean liberation from Japan on August 15th 1945.
However, such appeals to patriotism seem to have run their course, and South Koreans have rediscovered their fascination for all things foreign. What has prompted them to rethink is a growing awareness of how much more they pay for things than foreigners do—and not just because of high tariffs—and how easy it has become to import cheap stuff.
Among the first signs that patriotic propaganda was losing its effectiveness came in 2009, when Apple launched the iPhone in South Korea. Samsung fought back by promoting its Omnia 2 mobile as “the pride of South Korea” and local media weighed in with negative reviews of its American rival. Yet Apple went on to seize a quarter of the country’s smartphone sales in one year. More recently, a petition by local grocers last March, calling for a boycott of popular Japanese-branded products, such as beer and cigarettes, flopped.
Yes, but economic nationalism is not dead!
The beautiful Lee Hyori (God bless her heart!) on Twitter said that if Ssangyong rehires all the workers they laid off in 2009, then she will star in a Ssangyong commercial promoting the Tivoli crossover, dancing in a bikini!
Lee Hyori- beautiful AND generous!
Unfortunately, Ssangyong showed their poor sense of aesthetic and business acumen by declining Hyori’s offer.
Personally? I admire Hyori’s sense of community activism and civic virtue, whether or not it’s to promote Korean beef, or raise awareness for abandoned pets, feeding the poor or finding attractive mates for ugly Korean men.
Photo from Soompi.com.