One of the things I most admire about Korea, and one of the aspects that keeps attracting me back, is the fierce ambition of its citizens to be the best in all they do and to be recognized as such on the world stage. But I also find it frustrating that in many things, it seems to be considered enough to merely take on a label without earning the appellation, - in essence talking the talk without walking the walk.
Perhaps it’s a simple matter of mistranslation or that such slogans state a goal rather than something attained but there’s a sense, for native speakers of English, at least, that there’s not much thought and consultation put into branding.
Take, for instance, the title “Island of World Peace,” which was bestowed upon Jeju Island in 2005 by the central government. Jeju has hosted many high-level summits and meetings, perhaps earning it this moniker on the global stage, but anyone who has been privy to village life here finds the peace label a little laughable. The highest profile case at present would be the coastal village of Ganjeong, where the residents are fiercely divided over a proposed naval base slated for construction there. The argument has developed into a “he said, she said” situation in which some residents are happy to welcome the economic benefits they expect from the project, while others fear little short of environmental devastation. In another instance of ignoring facts that don’t dovetail with their goals, opponents of the base claim that having it here would negate the island’s “world peace” status, while conveniently ignoring the long-term presence of a military base already here.
Then there is the new provincial government slogan that has been plastered on banners across the island since Governor Woo Keun Min took office early this month. “The world comes to Jeju, and Jeju goes to the world” may be a worthy mission statement but its presence everywhere has drawn more than a few comments, jokes and questions from native English speakers on the island. Taken literally as a declarative sentence it is plainly untrue and most English speakers I know wonder what it is supposed to mean. In this it is similar to the slogan “Only Jeju” that appears on all official literature and leads most English speakers to wonder “Only Jeju what?”
Effective branding is of inestimable value to a city, province or country and a successful example is the “Malaysia, Truly Asia” catch-phrase. Unfortunately, the local equivalents have the feel of being written by someone’s middle-school level child, rather than a coherent and well-thought statement that is clear in any translation.
ⓒ Jeju Weekly 2009 (http://www.jejuweekly.com)
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