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04/01/2012

Creativity and policy II: Future plans for Korean soft power

This has been the study tour of follow up questions, so why not writing a follow up post? After hypothesizing about the role that governmental action might have played in the Korean creative brand, why not comment on what we learnt about their future plans? 

After visiting some of the top companies at Korea and the Asan Institute, one starts to understand to facts: 1) Most Koreans are not aware of a Korean creative revolution or question that it is playing such an important role; 2) The most important role in innovative technologies must be found in private investors and big corporations, and not so much in governmental tactics.

During our visit to the policy institute we had the chance to listen to two presenters with quite opposite prospective on the subject. On one hand, a representative from a governmental agency dedicated to fostering the creative brand of the country, and on the other a political analyst linked to the institute.

The representative of the Presidential Council on National Branding presented the work that this agency orchestrates among big companies, NGOs, airlines and the Government. She presented the brand equity of Korea as the result of the past five decades, with negative equities like the War, division, the financial crisis in the 90s, and positives equities (some resulting from the previous): transparency and dynamic democracy, IT/technology expertise, ship building, international security, big brands, exports.

The Korean government is trying to build on this equity and support creativity in several ways:

  • Investment in culture, sport and tourism; with a goal of $22.4b by 2020
  • Project Hallyn 3.0, to develop competitive content, enter strategic markets, set up support systems for sustainable growth and expand interactive cultural exchanges
  • Set up one-stop support for 5 key areas: 3D, CG, virtual reality, smart content and next-generation games
  • Support for small-sized companies in the form of capital, information and labor

There is no wonder that the government is applying some right measures to improve Korean reputation as a creative country. But it is also true that most of the measures where directed to capitalize the innovation that Korean companies such as Samsung or Hyundai have already lead as a result of charismatic leaders, historic circumstances, globalization, labor opportunities, and construction of big corporations and oligopolies.

It was really interesting to hear how, when asked about soft power assets; the second presenter related it with phenomena like K-Pop. When it comes to technical innovation, one wonders if the lead that private corporations have played will not be altered and lose effectiveness with excessive government intervention. Another question that was  brought up was a hypothetic excessive dependence on China and on trade in general.

Some speciffic challenges were mentioned in Korean soft power policy:

  • Insecurity: Korean people still underestimate their soft power
  • Not enough people capable of packaging soft power and presenting to international audience
  • Korean leaders yet not comfortable with idea of soft power
  • Too tight relationship between the concepts of soft power and nationalism

No matter what, the result is that Korea has a pride in its own brands that it did not have some years ago. As a final example, we learnt that Hyundai was now branded with its right Korean pronunciation and not as “Hiundai” to sound Japanese, as it would have been some years ago.