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Intellasia East Asia News – Korea’s ever-changing city brand slogans baffle foreigners

It was initially “Hi Seoul,” introduced in 2002 by conservative Mayor Lee Myung-bak, who later became the president of Korea. That slogan for Seoul Metropolitan City had been in use for the longest time. Then in 2006, Lee’s successor, Mayor Oh Se-hoon, modified it to “Hi Seoul: SOUL of Asia.”

The capital’s slogan went through another change in 2015 when liberal Mayor Park Won-soon, in his second term, introduced the controversial and nonsensical “I.Seoul.U” slogan, which was selected in an online vote open to the public.

Last year, the city government reached the consensus that “I.Seoul.U” is not appealing or competitive enough to attract foreign travellers or global investors and embarked last August on a project to develop a new slogan, which will “strengthen Seoul’s competitiveness as a global city,” with a panel of public relations and marketing experts.

The city’s slogan is set to change this year as the Seoul Metropolitan government holds yet another vote for its next slogan.

Anyone can vote for the new slogan until January 31 through the city government’s website.

The four final candidates put to the vote are: “Seoul for you,” “Amazing Seoul,” “Seoul, my soul” and “Make it happen, Seoul.”

A similar effort to introduce a new slogan is also underway in the nation’s southern port city of Busan.

Earlier this month, Busan proclaimed “Busan is Good” as its new slogan to replace “Dynamic Busan,” which had been in use for over 20 years. The southeastern city of Daegu announced its new slogan “Powerful Daegu” to replace “Colorful Daegu,” which represented the city’s historical identity as a textile industry. The administrative capital of Sejong, south of Seoul is now using “Sejong is the future.”

The three major cities have one thing in common: a change in mayors. To signal their fresh starts, the ambitious mayors are trying to fix the images of their respective cities with new slogans.

But the reactions are not all positive.

The Korean-language page for voting on the slogan has several critical comments. Only 12,369 people have voted as of 3 p.m. Sunday.

Although the English-language page does not have a comment section, a number of foreign residents and overseas visitors to Korea interviewed by The Korea Times expressed their confusion and dissatisfaction, which was agreed by experts.

Several foreign interviewees pointed out that Seoul’s four candidate slogans fail to reflect the city’s identity. They are “uniformly awful and cheesy,” and fail to “appeal to tourists,” according to Michael Aronson, a former New Yorker who was named an honorary citizen of Seoul in 2012.

Stephane Mot, 55, a Frenchman who lived in Seoul since 1991, agreed that they are “either dull or already used elsewhere or embarrassingly clumsy,” and believes the candidate slogans should have gone through a crash-test among native English speakers before being put to the vote.

Jericho Li, 35, from Hong Kong, who visited Seoul and Busan earlier this month, said that “Make it happen Seoul” was her least favourite. She said that it made her wonder: “The city is trying to make what happen?”

However, these candidate slogans have been thoroughly screened and selected, according to the government official in charge of the city’s brand development. The expert panel including foreign nationals screened and selected the four most appealing among several hundred suggestions made from Korea and abroad, especially because I.Seoul.U received such a backlash.

However, Lee Hee-bok, a professor of design at Sangji University, pointed out that the cities still should have been more thorough in developing new slogans. Some of the slogans can be easily found on the internet having already been used elsewhere Gimhae and Ulsan have already used “for you,” and “Amazing” was Thailand’s tourism slogan, while “Make it happen” is used by the United Arab Emirates.

Also, many criticised the fact that Korea’s slogans are changed far too frequently often along with the change in mayors and take an extensive amount of money and manpower. Kevin Nickolai, an American resident of Daejeon, which has the “strangely humble” slogan “It’s Daejeon,” commented that Korea’s slogans “seem to be recycled too quickly here like the churn of so many K-pop brands.”

For instance, I.Seoul.U cost around 2.1 billion won ($1.7 million). The city government spent 800 million on slogan development, 300 million won for the new slogan proclamation ceremony and over 1 billion won to install 29 3D logos at tourist landmarks across the capital.

Busan and Gyeonggi Province’s latest slogan development initiatives also cost around 800 million won each, their budget records show. Daegu’s city identity improvement plan initiated in 2019, which ended up only recommending some color changes from the previous logo, cost around 350 million won.

Korean cities’ tendency to change their slogans along with their city mayors show “their strong will and ambition,” to appeal in a distinctive way by administering city affairs differently from their predecessors and showing results, Lee said.

Multiple updates of slogans could have some advantages, according to Hwang In-seok, a marketing professor at the University of Seoul. “A new slogan could supplement the previous one and reflect the city’s transformation,” Hwang said, while also warning that changing slogans too often could be costly and create public confusion.

Lee explained the importance of consistency and durability in building a city’s brand identity with the example of Paris’ Eiffel Tower. When it was built in 1887 by French engineer Gustave Eiffel, the controversial tower faced strong criticisms for breaking the city’s altitude limit and was called a disgrace to architecture. However, it outlasted the controversy and became an iconic cultural asset and landmark of the city.

“Although Korea is not a big country, it has a rich historical and cultural background to develop unique regional brands and identities,” Lee said. “If we don’t invest enough time in a slogan, we’ll never have a symbol like the Eiffel Tower,” Lee said.

https://www.koreatimes.co.kr/www/nation/2023/01/356_344111.html

 

Category: Korea


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