I created this mood board with the specific purpose of thinking about tourism from the perspective of a Western traveler who wants to take a vacation, but has little understanding about Korea. I find that the biggest problem most Western people have with Korea is a misunderstanding of it. When I say “Korea,” most people look surprised and ask me “North Korea?” Or, if they understand that South Korea is the one I’m referring to, they ask me, “What is it like with North Korea?” Most people from the Western world are so concerned with and focused on North Korea, that they miss the beauty that is South Korea. Therefore, I chose the words (and potential logo) in the top right corner of the mood board, “This is Korea.” I think that most people don’t fully understand what Korea truly is.
The Question to end all Questions
In the left-center of the mood board (designed at A3 size, so if printed it will take up two A4 size pages), there is a black box that I began with (and referenced in my previous post) to help me decide what images to include in the mood board. I find that China and Japan are Korea’s strongest competitors for tourism, so the most important questions I could ask were about the motivations for traveling to, and most iconic places in, each of those countries. In China, the Great Wall is a huge draw. In Japan, Mount Fuji. But in Korea, there are very few places that are so famous or at least as widely known outside Korea.
Oh where, Korea, is your history?
Part of the reasons for China and Japan’s fame, and their draw for tourists, include their lengthy and well-known histories (which are studied in many Western classrooms), and their cultures and cultural icons, including foods, martial arts, writing, and religions (which are very widely portrayed in Hollywood movies). Korea is most famous for it’s belligerent brother to the North, and the Korean War – which seems to have been something of an embarrassment for the West (the US). At least that’s what I gathered from the fact that history books and classrooms all throughout my academic experience have kind of skipped over that chapter (and often subchapter) of history. Most American students don’t even know the dates of the Korean War – a big part of American history, or even why the US was in Korea in the first place. Much of Korea and Korean culture still seems to be skipped over, forgotten about, or neglected in Western education because it is deemed either irrelevant, or North Korea is so much of a threat it is easier to only concentrate on that aspect of Korea.
Make your weaknesses become your strengths
That being said, I think that Korean history is a very important part of Korea, and the draw for tourism. I read that the DMZ separating North and South is the largest draw for tourism in the country. Additionally, I think that Korea is an incredibly relevant country in this modern age. Electronics giants Samsung and LG are present in nearly ever advanced country, and hold huge market shares, especially in cell phones and small electronics. Hyundai is additionally becoming a respected car manufacturer and may eventually be joined by Samsung (already one of the most respected car manufacturers within Korea).
About the Mood Board
Now, about the mood board itself. I put images from Korea’s history up in the top left corner, as well as the DMZ. The images I chose reminded me of some of the most shocking and widely publicized images from other nations that have become famous, including Tiananmen Square in China, and war pictures from Vietnam or other nations. I also wanted to include bits of Korea that are famous in Korea, but not well-known outside of Korea. Therefore, progressing along the top of the board, I included traditional architecture, mountain landscapes, modern architecture and city lights, and the four distinct seasons that Koreans are so proud of at the far right. Progressing toward the bottom, I included Korean celebrity and 2010 Olympic gold medalist Kim Yuna, Korea’s famous sports, and modern technology. Heading back to the left, I included a Korean wedding ceremony, the Korean alphabet, Buddhism, Korean food, and celebrity Rain, who won the 2010 MTV Movie Award for “Biggest Bad Ass Actor” for his role in Ninja Assassin. And in the lower left corner, there is a tourism poster with the slogan “Korea Sparkling” as well as many pictures of traditional and modern dance (B-boys).
I used all three of the Korea Tourism Organization’s own tourism slogans, from “Dynamic Korea” to “Korea Sparkling” and finally “Inspiring Korea.” I used a font face that takes the actual Korean alphabet and romanizes it into English letters, so the letter shapes in those words take on the same characteristics as actual Korean writing. The final slogan “Welcome to the ROK (Republic of Korea)” was inspired by something one of my Western friends said when he visited. It sounds a bit “Hollywood” but inspires a feeling of excitement, which is very important for tourism.
Overall, throughout this mood board, I wanted to give a sense of the variety of Korea, its history (which I think is often skipped over or forgotten), its excitement and action, its fusion of traditional and modern, and its vast color palette. Honestly, Korea is the most brightly colored country I have ever visited, especially in their traditional architecture and clothes (hanboks), and that is another aspect of Korea that I think is often skipped over in tourism advertising. With each image I chose, I tried to follow a certain formula to help me choose excellent images. That formula is included the QUALITY checklist for great tourism photographs that I wrote about in my previous blog post.
What about you?
What do you know of Korea? What do you think of Korea’s current brand? What do you think of my mood board? How can Korea become not only a relevant country and tourist destination, but also a highly favored tourist destination? What would make someone pick Korea over China and Japan to visit?