The Presidential Council on Nation Branding (PCNB) was established on January 22, 2009 to improve Korea's status and prestige in the international community through systematic and comprehensive strategies. National brand is a concept that includes credibility and impression of a nation. Korea believes that a nation's reputation -- or soft power -- has a greater impact on a national brand than hard power such as military or economic power. If South Korea's brand value is raised, it will give Korean corporate and its products advantages; as a result, it will create a highly valued Korea brand and also Koreans may receive respect from around the world.
PCNB has three main strategies: PCNB plays an important role of a governmental control tower, coordinates differentiated national branding strategies, and boosts public cooperation and participation.
Yu Tae Hoon, the advisor of IBTimes permanent committee in Korea interviewed Euh Yoon- Dae, the chairman of PCNB to learn more about the committee's main function and its purpose.
Mr. Yu: What made you to establish the Presidential Council on Nation Branding (PCNB)
Mr. Euh: On August 15, 2008, Lee Myung-bak, the South Korean president, emphasized in an address celebrating the country's National Liberation day on observance of the law, Green Growth, and importance of a national brand. Then Lee declared on establishment of PCNB. After a few months later, on January 22, 2009 it was launched.
Our goal is to find reasons of undervalued national brand that has been relatively evaluated under than the South's economic competitiveness. Then we target to amplify positive aspects of Korea's international reputation.
Mr.Yu: Please explain PCNB's three major strategies in detail.
Mr. Euh: Government Control tower brings all related businesses that focus on promoting Korea's national brand together in one place. On May 7, 2009, PCNB had a welcoming ceremony to integrate oversee volunteers' combination branding strategies, which were promoted in different places at the government level, into one common brand strategy, called Worlds Friends Korea in order to generate an incredible level of synergy.
To improve a national brand, consistency and persistence must come with it. Therefore, a systematic management system needs to be present to help evaluating whether its works are done appropriately or not.
In the council, we construct scientific and systematic management systems and develop index to analyze the national brand comprehensively. Also, we put a lot of efforts to narrow the gap between the true brand value and the perceived image through analysis, set short/long-term goals to boost the national brand, and seek communication strategies to penetrate into different cities and provinces in Korea.
National brand improvement strategies are evaluated on a regular basis. This makes the council possible to get a sense of what is being done at the moment and we apply the evaluation data to overall national brand enhancement.
Many people think that it is the government business, but we are actually in need of corporate and citizen cooperation and participation.
The crucial part is to form a virtuous circle between Korea's image and well-known Korean corporate brands. Sadly, there are millions of people who do not know that the world's leading brands like Samsung, LG Electronics, and Hyundai are Korean firms. For larger corporate, less connection with low national brand quality can sometimes be good for them because they use it as a demarketing tool, but to most medium sized firms that present 'Made in Korea' value to the international market, the success is in the hands of Korea's brand value, so we must strengthen the relationship between small and medium sized companies and Korea's international status.
One of PNCB's major roles is to inform the importance of a national brand through developing a bond of sympathy with people and to launch a campaign to bring citizen participation.
Especially, we are driving a campaign to give positive impression and experiences for those who will visit Korea for G20 Summit in coming November and I believe it will help elevate citizen awareness.
Mr.Yu: What would say that of importance among three strategies and why?
Mr. Euh: Every part is essential and one cannot succeed in improving a national brand without the other strategy. If I had to pick only one, I would say enhancement of citizen participation. Each citizen forms a nation; without a citizen there is no nation. I believe that mature civic awareness is the basis for dignity of a nation, so PCNB defines increasing Korea's reputation is creating a nation loved by all.
Based on my personal experiences, if you meet someone very sweet and lovable, they tend to draw your attention. I found the common personality they have is that they are very open-mined and considerate of others. This kind of personality can be applied to the international community as well. If we, as one nation, first have open mind to other nations and cultures, I believe others will treat us the same way then we can became a nation loved by all.
Mr.Yu: We know that being a leader is not easy. Is there any memorable moment that you can never forget as the chairman of PNCB? Can you tell us how you overcome the difficulties?
Mr. Euh: It is not that leader position gives you troubles. I think other people all have different issues in their position. What leaders require to do is that they should lead the organization to the right path, remembering the common goals and making the group believe they can achieve the goals. It is the matter of responsibility, not the position itself.
Because PNCB is a newly established organization only a year and a half ago, there was too much work need to be done. We didn't have enough staffs as well as budgets so that was the difficulty I had to face at first. However, many volunteers, who have extensive expertise in different fields of studies, participated in our works and firms sent intelligent people to PNCB willingly. All that made us possible to accomplish many things over a short period of time. I wasn't lonely at all; they were my pillar of hope.
Mr. Yu: Specifically, what was the biggest success you had among many events?
Mr.Euh: I know enhancing a national brand can never be completed overnight. The biggest success I could remember is that 10 out of 9 people say that a national brand is important after PNCB was actively working on improving it; thus, I believe that we are succeed in creating a bond of sympathy among Koreans.
On May 7, 2009 PCNB created a brand, World Friends Korea through public contest and participation and had a welcoming ceremony for oversee volunteers. There were many events and campaigns we promoted with big Korean corporate, such as Asiana Airlines, Korean Airlines, Hyundai, and many more.
Also, we run a World Students in Korea (WSK) blog worldwide to provide international students in Korea opportunities to learn about Korea.
In October 2009, we launched Korea Image Making Campaign which encourage people to upload pictures related to Korea in Flickr, the best online photo sharing website in the world. When you type 'Korea' in the website before the Campaign, North Korea pictures were accounted for 76%, but now it declined to 39%.
Mr. Yu: What needs to be done to improve current strategies?
Mr. Euh: We need to have conviction and belief of what we are doing now. Some people are criticizing us for not presenting a new agenda, but branding is not something that can be finished by just one touch. But if we set long- term goals and push our ideas through, we can see changes during the process. Thus, solving challenges diligently and consistently is inevitable.
With that in mind, if every member is determined to become a changing agent and to be loved by all, I strongly believe that PNCB will develop a lot over the next years to come.
Mr.Yu: What would you say to those who support PCNB and work for the council?
Mr.Euh: Since January 22, 2009 we had faced many issues so I first would like to take this time to thank those who work passionately in their position with me.
Now, we finally shaped ourselves as we are in the process of building a house; pillars are in place and walls are built. Now is the time to fill the newly built house with many refreshing content and ideas.
Above all things, we should always be award of the fact that a national brand is our face and pride. It tells us how foreigners think of Korea, so I urge you to be responsible for what you do in your position and equip yourself with objective and global mind.
Mr.Yu: Last but not least, you are many young people's role model. Can you give them some advice?
It is necessary to have global thoughts and mind to live in a global village. In order to do that international communication skills and thorough understanding of other cultures are essential.
In the past, we are taught that we can be expertise in just one area but, the time has changed a lot so we are expected to be a versatile player.
I recommend you to read a lot to develop multidisciplinary knowledge and experience many fields to raise your competitiveness in the international market.