New Seoul campaign video drops the idols eating kimchi and ACTUALLY makes you want to go there
And quite right. I.Seoul.U was and still is ridiculous, meaningless and completely grammatically incorrect. U, I do not Seoul. (See? I’ve no idea how to flip that in a way that even remotely makes sense. That’s how bad the English is.)
Queue my surprise, then, when I came across a new campaign video that actually had me convinced that I want to go to Seoul.
This video succeeds in all the ways that the announcement of I.Seoul.U as a new brand failed. It actually shows why many people want to live in Seoul – taking a foreign perspective without lumping together “foreigners” as a single homogeneous being with a uniform set of motivations. While I.Seoul.U felt like a board of bureaucrats sat around what their imaginary ideal foreigner wanted (which by all accounts it was), this video asks non-Koreans what they actually get from Seoul and showcases it front and centre.
For the past few years the Visit Seoul campaigns have invariably taken the “Come to Seoul and a member of Super Junior dressed in a hanbok will feed you kimchi by the River Han” tack. This is not clever. It’s not K-pop and K-drama fans that need to be sold Seoul, the media they consume already does that job far better than a stuffy organisation like the KTO ever could. I’m sure the adverts for SMTOWN Coex Mall drew far more existing Hallyu fans to Seoul than many of the silly idol-filled ad campaigns ran by official tourism bodies over the years. Korean entertainment successfully does its own job at drawing tourists to Korea and tourist board attempts to cash in on that invariably feel like a cheap imposter.
“Come to Seoul and see Suzy play Chinese skipping with some small children”
Hundreds of thousands if not millions of people around the world are drawn in to visit New York by its iconography present in thousands of Hollywood movies but only a very small percentage actually visit the city with the intention of visiting film sets and hunting out celebrities for the entire duration of their trip. Instead media images help to reinforce the popular notion around the world that NYC is somewhere important fully of bright lights and entertainment and somewhere to go to be part of something special. While Seoul is no New York, this role, as proof Seoul is fun, young, cool, advanced and so on, is what Hallyu should be in terms of tourism marketing strategies – not the central focus in itself.
Many of the people looking to visit the city have very little interest in its popular culture but the fact that it is there and it has some global relevance has a certain cachet. Seoul draws adults in their 20s and 30s in to visit with it’s great nightlife, its shopping, the fact this is all accompanied by a very high level of safety. Like, large global cities all over the world, there are also good opportunities to broaden your horizons, good universities, opportunities for fairly good if often short term employment and small pockets of great diversity that are ever increasing.
This is what large swathes of people with some money coming out of university or with a few years work experience or just looking for something new want but it’s also something that numerous cities in Asia, Europe, North America, Australia and increasingly South America and Africa can also provide. But, equally, Seoul does have it’s own niche as a technologically advanced, constantly evolving city with a lot of creative energy juxtaposed against a strong and unique national culture that can feel parochial at times but can also be complex and intriguing.
This is why people like Seoul. This is why they go for a year and stay for six. It’s about time that was recognised.