In South Korea, there is a wide collection of treasures that could be of entertainment and interest to tourists from the international community, yet, not much about this treasure is known (Don 2007; Ilbo 2007). This is because aggressive strategies of marketing the country as a tourist attraction site have not been aggressive enough. The tourism image of South Korea has been inflicted with an extremely low profile brand image, with the effect that the number of visitors to the country appears to dwindle year in, year out, yet the nation has enormous potential (Davis 2003; Anholt 2009) to ensure that the tourism industry becomes the leading revenue collector in the country. Clearly, there is a need to ensure that the tourism industry in South Korea is given a total overhaul, coupled with a re-branding so that it may play its role in repairing the economy and reputation of the country to such a scale as it should or could.
Establishing a national brand in South Korea
The establishment of a nation as a brand that turns out to be both credible and competent resembles the process of establishing a product brand (Birkin 1994; Gregory 2003; Kotler & Waldemar 2006). In the establishment of any brand, time is a crucial factor, and so a successful brand requires to be constructed in a painstakingly elaborate and calculated manner (Wernick 1991; Schmidt & Ludlow 2002; Olins 2003; Miller & Muir 2004). Nevertheless, the attitude of those responsible for a certain brand is also very important. In the case of a county, its leaders and people happen to be the owners of that brand. In presence of sufficient resources, the required effort, and strategies, it is quite possible for a country to realize a remarkable difference with regard to the establishment of a country as a renowned brand. Some of the features that could be utilized in the strengthening of a nation, in this case, South Korea, as a renowned brand, could be its unique cultural heritage, which it may which to share with the rest of the world. As such, the nation’s tourism may be used as a building block to the establishment of South Korea as a brand.
South Korea tourist organization
The tourism organization of Korea (now the South Korea tourism organization) came into being in 1962 as a corporation of the government. This corporation was thus charged with the role of enhancing the tourism industry in the country. The organization now appears to lay more emphasis on promoting the nation as a tourist destination of choice and has thus immensely contributed to international tourists’ attraction.
From the 1980s moving forward, the promotion of domestic tourists was embraced by the corporation. Consequently, the demand for public tourism has witnessed rapid growth, thanks to enhanced living standards, coupled with improved disposable income, and a network of transport that has since greatly been improved.
Key products of South Korea tourist organization
Some of the well-known and historical sites for tourist attractions in South Korea are Seoul, the antique capital of the nation, Buyeo, and Gyeongju. A majority of tourists from the international community visit Seoul with the aim of sharing in the experience the culture of the Koreans, both in its classical and modern forms. In addition, there are also other natural landmarks within the country that has over the years proved to be useful as sites for the attraction of tourists. These include the Baekdudaegan peaks.
Furthermore, there are the Hwanseongul and Danyang caves, and such beaches as Mallipo and Haeundae, all of which have over the years turned to become quite popular sites with international tourists. Furthermore, there are quite a number of small islands that are also popular with tourists.
In a bid to promote the brand image of the country, the South Korean government, though it’s the tourism organization, has sought to establish the holding of festivals on an annual basis within the locality of such sites, in a bid to attract tourists to these regions (EU Chamber of Commerce in Korea 2007). Preservation of ancient structures is also another strategy for attracting tourists, as they have been shown to love these. The bullfighting and mud festivals are but some of the annual events that are held to aid in the attractions of tourists.
Current tourism promotion strategies
The South Korean tourism organization is attempting to develop the traditional culture of the country into tourist resources and products of high quality. This endeavor is with the assistance of the tourism industry and the local governments. In as far as the improvement of accommodation infrastructure, transportation services for the tourists, and information services, the organization is committed to seeing that unwelcome features of the tourism atmosphere get eliminate by way of holding and funding public campaigns.
Local tourism development is also part of the organization’s strategy in marketing the tourism brand. In this case, the organization has invested in the promotion of inbound tourists. Through publications, research, development, and collaterals of promotions, the organization appears well on its way to turning the country in general, and the tourism sector in particular, into a tourism destination worth emulating.
In addition, the South Korean tourism organization is gearing itself to turn into a harmonious, efficient, and challenging organization amid all the developments and technological advances that the 21st century has brought with it. In line with this, the organization appears committed to ensures that South Korea turns into a global destination for the tourist, while at the same time also playing the all-important roles of developing the tourism sector in the country into a strategic and global industry.
Moreover, the organization is also keen on fostering the competitiveness of the country by way of laying a spotlight on the chief strengths of the tourism sector, as well as making use of the local and international experts in tourism branding. Thanks to numerous researches and employing of technology in the tourism sector, the organizations have managed to nurture the industry to become the novel economic engine for the nation.
Furthermore, the organization has also managed to foster cooperation not just with the local governments, but also the industries within the tourism sector. Besides, an exchange of tourism between South and North Korea has been in existence largely due to the efforts of the South Korean tourist organization.
The South Korean tourism organization now has a new slogan, dubbed, “Korea, Sparkling”. The slogan, the very first for the tourism organization was developed with a view to conveying an uplifting and refreshing image of the country, to the rest of the world. This came following a realization by the Korean government and the tourism sector that there is a multitude of reason which motivates numerous people to visit the country, and these differ based on age, region, and age of the tourists. For this reason, therefore, the organization saw the need to customize its communication in line with the needs of the international tourists.
That Korea is quite lacking with regard to the positioning of its brand is without question, seeing that the ‘Korea sparkling’ slogan represents the very first national brand for the country (Satish 2006; The Seoul Times 2009). This is quite a sad development, bearing in mind that South Korea is well endowed with various traditional and religious developments, along with the related opportunities for pilgrimages. As such, his could form a basis for spiritually-related tourism.
Countless spiritual sites of significance that vary both in size and importance may be found within South Korea. These ranges from primordial magnificent monasteries that are endowed with reflective artistic treasurers, to the smaller shrines that are located in secluded areas (Korean Overseas Information Service 2004). By way of playing host to huge international proceedings, this act alone has immensely supported bids by the government of South Korea to raise its global profile, in terms of attracting international tourists. Some of these international events include among others the summer Olympics games of 1988 that were held in Seoul, Korea, the World Cup that the country hosted jointly with Japan, and the APEC conference held in 2005.
The country is again poised to play host to yet another international event in august. The event, dubbed, ‘The Global Fair & Festival’ hopes to attract companies and cities alike the world over to take part in conferences, exhibitions, as well as a multitude of other events. This is yet another chance for the country to open its doors to the outside world in terms of its cultural heritage.
Re-branding is described as a process that enables a given product or service, to be marketed in a diverse identity. To accomplish this, it might be necessary to make alterations to the logo of such a brand, its image, brand name the themes of advertising, or even the marketing strategies (Kotler et al 1993; Ham 2002; Morgan et al 2004; Avraham & Ketter 2008). The objective of such alterations is with a view to attaining a brand repositioning, often in a bid to draw a line between, on the one hand, some negative aspects that could have characterized an earlier brand. It could also be with a view to ensuring that the brand in question is able to move upmarket.
Considering that South Korea as a national brand may not have negative connotations that could tarnish its name and consequently, its global brand image, it may be safe therefore to presume that its re-branding would be on the basis of ensuring that it moves up-market (Song 2004). It is important that we appreciate here that the very critical decisions as regard brand Korea emanates from the minds and hearts of the tourists themselves, the Koreans who have traveled widely through the globe (Roll 2006), members of the business community, and the local tourists as well, as opposed to the bureaucrats and politicians attending conferences.
If at all strategies for the re-branding of South Korea are to be made, there is a need to pay attention to this weighty issue. In line with this, it may deem necessary to have a brand director for the country appointed; one who will work closely with the tourism sector and the government as well. Nevertheless, such a director should only report to the president of South Korea directly, so that important decisions may be executed in a timely manner.
Furthermore, such a director should also be allocated enough resources to undertake research and development with regard to the ways in which his/her docket may improve on the brand that is South Korea. With the creation of the country brand director, the responsibilities, as well as the authorities of helping in promoting the nation, should then be moved to this office, away from the various agencies of the government. There should also be a way through which hindering regulations to tourism infrastructure development should be removed or revamped, along with curding any further reckless destruction of the architectural as well as the cultural heritage within South Korea.
South Korea has the potential to be one of the leading international tourist attraction destinations, yet the country has not fully utilized its potential. Even then, the government, through the national tourism organization, has tried to market the tourism sector in the country, and indeed the cultural as well as the architectural heritage of the nation. The promotion of local tourists, and who form a large part of the tourists visiting famous sites, has been ongoing through the efforts of the tourism organization. National annual festivities have also been used to lure international tourists, not to mention an improvement of the infrastructure in the country, and especially those that directly serve the tourist attraction sites.
In addition, the holding of international events such as the Seoul Olympic Games in 1988 and the 2002 World Cup games have also acted to facilitates the marketing of the brand South Korea. Nevertheless, there is still room for improvement (Witt & Moutinho 1994; Waitt 1996). To start with, the government could appoint a brand director for the country, with a full mandate, responsibilities, and sufficient resources to market the nation as a tourist destination. Such a director should also have the authority to ensure that the natural resources and tourist attraction sites are preserved.
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