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President's Message
Meaningless Slogans
By Alan Timblick
President of The Seoul Times
Former Seoul Mayor Oh Se-Hoon

With yet another launch of the Korea Tourism Corporation, we are greeted with a slogan which is supposed to help promote the Brand of Korea in the minds of foreign visitors.

But previous attempts at creating catchy slogans have generally failed miserably. Why does this happen?

One common factor is that such slogans are written in what is supposed to be the English langaguage.

But to native English speakers they actually sound strange and unconvincing. From the insipid,limp and ultimately meaningless hi Seoul" or"korea-Sparkling!to the latest proposed "korea- use your imagination" these slogans miss the mark by a long shot and fail to convey any meaningful message

Slogans and campaigns are a very expensive business and so it is the controller of the budget who gets to have the deciding word, though he or she may be totally unqualified to judge.

Some locations use attractive slogans e.g. "Newbury welcomes careful drivers" which korean cities might wish to emulate. But the reality check is essential, so for example: "Seoul, Heaven of Courteous Driving" would be ridiculed around the world, given korean drivers' reputation for selfishness!

Slogans do not have to be amazingly clever with words but they should at leasthave a good sound in the language in which they are expressed. Some 10 years ago this writer, while attending a Seoul Town Meeting chaired by former Mayor Oh Se-Hoon, proposed a slogan which was intended to meet the above criteria.

The suggestion was met with standing applause and was later actually adopted. One can read it on City vehicles and. Buildings to this day. It goes Seoul,"soul of Asia" and in my opinion associates the spirit of the city with the heart and force of the Asian Continent.

It also has the intended effect of helping foreigners pronounce the city name more correctly, instead of the occasionally heard "Say-yeul"

I am very happy this slogan is used, even though I have never received any acknowledgement or word of thanks from the City officials!

Despite this apparent disparagement of the value of a contribution by an outsider - an unfortunate characteristic of official ingratitude, stemming from a reluctance to admit that korean functionaries are not able to do everything themselves, without advice, especially when it comes to the English language! I would like to offer another modest proposal for the KTO, which could be used alone or in conjunction with a Visit Korea campaign...

So here is The Seoul Times' totally unselfish unsolicited, free and open hearted offering, without branding consulting fees, just to demonstrate how non-koreans, out of affection for this country, can contribute value and maybe lead with innovative ideas. If adopted, a word of thanks is all the compensation we would ask!


Alan Timblick serves as President of The Seoul Times. He grew up in England, graduated from Oxford University, and has lived in Seoul for over three decades. A former banker, he also worked for the Korean government as head of Invest Korea and for Seoul City as head of the Seoul Global Center.






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