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Korea will be judged by actions not words: nation branding expert

Design cannot change the image of a country, said Simon Anholt, an independent policy advisor, at the first session of the Herald Design Forum 2011, titled “National and Urban Design.”

Kwon Young-gull, Board Chairman at Seoul Design Foundation, opened the session with his keynote speech on the new design vision for Seoul, which can be summed up as “Soft Seoul.”

Lee Bae-yong, chairperson of the Presidential Council on National Branding, moderated the following discussion under the theme “Design breathes into the city.”

Anholt, the first speaker at the discussion, coined the term “nation-branding” in 1996 and has since been encouraging governments to coordinate their policies to build strong brand identities.

“We prefer Pepsi but buy Coke. We all live in a world where perception is more important than reality. So I wrote the paper to make governors realize what is important,” said Anholt.

He added, however, that focusing simply on design and images is not the way for a country to be recognized. Mentioning his encounter with a Korean man who was unhappy that Korea only ranked 33rd in the Anholt Nation Brands index, he listed things the world is commonly concerned about, like climate change and human rights. 
Session I is under way at the Shilla Seoul.
Session I is under way at the Shilla Seoul.

“If you want to be recognized, ask yourself which one of those challenges you could do something about as a country. Stop thinking about your image and your reputation. Nations and cities are judged by what they do and what they make and not by what they say about themselves,” said Anholt.

Panelists, including green designer Danny Seo, EcoCity Builders founder and CEO Richard Register and duplex constructionist Lee Hyun-wook continued the discussion, sharing specific examples of how urban living can be made more eco friendly.

Register mentioned Cheonggyecheon as a good example of ecological city planning, commenting that it is “one of the most exciting things in terms of waterway reconstructions.”

Seo, saying that it is his job to show people how to furnish their homes and live in beautiful cities in an ecological and economical way, introduced some of his ideas on decorating at almost no cost, like making bathmats out of corks, and some of the eco-friendly products he is making, such as quick-drying towels.

Lee received many questions about the duplex house he built a few years ago, which cost only as much to build as renting a house, took only a month to complete and is eco-friendly.

“Some say that Koreans should live in apartment buildings because we have a small country but a large population. But the ratio of floor area to the land for the apartment building next to my house is 180, and so is the ratio for my house. It is up to you to choose,” said Lee.

By Park Min-young (
Korea Herald Youtube