Why, you might ask, should certain images stop being used in advertisements and other promotions aimed at non-Koreans? Well, because they're cliched and trite, mostly, and based upon faulty assumptions of what foreigners know/can know about Korea. They also are images that are the result of an ethnocentric myopia that produces images of what Koreans think foreigners should see about Korea, as opposed to what a non-Korean might want to see. Cases-in-point: putting singer Rain in a "Korea, Sparkling" ad when most people in the target market has no idea who he is. Means a lot to Koreans, but nothing to non-Koreans. Same with an ad that put Korea's president at the time on the screen, which was an expression of desperation in itself -- note, you shouldn't have to put your nation's political leader into tourism ads, hawking the nation's wares, especially when no one knows what he looks like. Besides you, that is.
And certain images, such as b-boys breakdancing, has meaning more to Koreans than outsiders. What do break dancers mean to Koreans? The practitioners and the only-recently-recognized art form in Korea symbolize a shift to more cultural openness and a new fusion that exists between "East" and "West" and are living symbols of the "new" that goes with Korea's "old." We're dynamic and hip, dude!
To say, North Americans and especially beyond, they're symbols of American culture. Or black American culture. What do break dancers have to do with Korea, again? Oh -- I get it. Korea's hip and cool. Err, kinda. It's trite and cliched. Think about it another way. I'm watching a commercial promoting Malaysia as the "new destination in Asia" or some shit. And then I see break dancers pop-locking across the screen. WTF?
So, with that, I begin the perfunctory and arbitrary Top Ten list of images, cliches, and other annoying contrivances that I never, ever want to see again, and which sully or confuse Korean brand imaging:
10) People breakdancing, especially with other folks in Korean traditional clothing and/or playing traditional Korean instruments. I just think -- why the fuck am I watching "Breaking: Electric Boogaloo" in some Korean tourism spot? And anyway, it's cliche. Get over this image, please.
9) Grinning Korean celebrities smiling and holding their arm out in any welcoming gesture, or in the direction of another graphic. We don't know who they are, and even if we do, it looks desperate. Kim Yuna sells everything, but I don't want to see her in her skates in a Korean tourism ad. Do you really think that makes me want to come to Korea more, or does it just make you look desperate to try anything?
8) Foreigners marveling at things that are actually quite normal, or at least not worth busting a nut over. Like trying a dish, at which point a look of astonishment and wonder washes over the white face of the taster, who then gives an overly-hearty thumbs up and a smile right into the camera. Cue vomiting.
7) Obviously forced shots of foreigners looking into the camera and yelling unison the words "Fighting" or "Number one!" Or the words "I love Korea!" It's obvious and contrived, unconvincing, and I'm not fucking 5 years old. Korean media people underestimate their audiences, even their own Korean ones. People these days watch The Sopranos, CSI, 24, and other shit. The average media consumer isn't a child anymore. And web-savvy and relatively more media-sophisticated foreigners certainly don't respond to "Korean kimchi, number one! I love Korea!" That's just plain fucking lame and lazy.
6) Any swooshing graphics, energetic bass lines punctuating video, or those awful synthesizer orchestra "hits." No trumpets played over news footage of Koreans winning any prize, and you only get to show either the national flag or a graphic of the peninsula on the map, not both, and only once.
5) No images of factories producing cars, robotic arms putting microchips onto a circuit board, or Korean tech workers wearing white suits in a clean room, inspecting a machine part prominently in front of their visor and before the camera. For that matter, no shots of Koreans in anything white, for safety's sake. That would eliminate the danger of researchers in white jackets, scientists in white jackets, or doctors in white jackets. Taekwondo is an exception, though. Those things they wear when doing the cool, jumpy, spinny stuff aren't jackets.
4) The use of any superlatives. Korea is the "best" or "most" of anything, or being the anything-est in Asia, or the "first" when they weren't (note Yonsei, you weren't/aren't "the first and the best" at anything, at least according to any list I've seen lately). Koreans just literally make that shit up, and it just sounds either arrogant or annoying, and often, both. Shit, even Harvard would never arrogate themselves to have a slogan like "the first and the best", even though there's some legitimate argument to both claims. You just sound like a dick.
3) Authoritative narrative voiceovers. Try to sound friendly and engaging. Again, not like a know-it-all dick. Western media left that behind in the 1960's. Except for James Earl Jones saying "This is CNN" or something, which is cool. But there's a reason Morgan Freeman does so many voiceovers. He's nice. James Earl Jones was Darth Vader. Americans are afraid of Darth Vader. He's your father, he cut off your arm, and he's a dick. Westerners don't like authority. Koreans are still used to Park Chung Hee, Chun Doo Hwan-style, apparently. In Korea, father still knows best, it seems. In the West, daddy cut off our arm, symbolically castrated us, and that pisses us off. Germans, Italians, and many others don't like big daddy figures any more (you know who I'm talking 'bout, ya'll). Darth Vader encapsulated western fears in 1980's "The Empire Strikes Back," as he uttered the words that reverberated in our culture across the decades, with "No, Luke. *I* am your father." He was the big, black dick who threatened the very integrity of the known universe. Anyway, it's very Freudian. Just trust me on this one.
2) Don't ever make a picture of a Korean woman in a royal, Chosun-era hanbok prominently using a cellphone again, ever. EVER. I threw up a little bit in my mouth when I saw that.
1) Stop using the word "wave" with anything related to Korea again. The "wave" has ebbed, and no one but Koreans who read their own press releases (because that's what the reporting generally was) believed in any fucking "wave," anyway. And once the suits got into it, they ruined it, anyway. You raised censorship restrictions, Korean media has high production values these days, you no longer live in a military dictatorship and have actual freedom of expression. So now, you have some media that non-Koreans might actually find interesting. Cool. Don't get a huge fucking complex, or have a touchdown party every time some Korean actor shows up in a 3rd-rate Hollywood film. You're not destined to "take over" or "dominate" anyone else's film industry. You just have freedom of speech, good production values, and more artists making cultural products than during the old days of dictatorship and economic deprivation. Cool, we like you, welcome to the club. Just attend a few meetings before declaring yourself president.