Living on the small Pacific island of Guam, not much is known about Korea’s image other than its Hallyu (Korean Wave) contribution and the North Korean threats on our military bases. From Korean pop music that has dominated the music industry to Korean dramas that has swooned fans with their romantic stories, and even the recent threats of North Korea both in the year of 2013 and 2017, little is still known about its historical and cultural significance. In what ways can Korea improve its image for the rest of the world to know more about its presence. Why not assign an ambassador for Korea? Not a political representative, but mascots. Characters that are charming and relatable that leaves a lasting impression for all generations across the world.Absence of Korean Instructional Material
Growing up, little to none about Korean history and culture has been introduced on the island. My first and very few encounters with Korea was the 1997 airplane crash of Korean Air in Guam. Other than that, a few of my classmates in elementary and middle schools were my only exposure in understanding Korea. With our geographical region in the Pacific as a U.S. Territory and the abundance of U.S. military bases, Western and Guam History were the only subjects taught in the school system. Not much was discussed about Korea’s history other than World War II when Japan’s conquest for imperialism was prevalent. Aside from the military, several years of Guam’s tourism industry was heavily reliant on the Japanese market. The Japanese language was copious on island from brochures, posters, transportation, and cultural destinations. Consequently, it made it difficult for Korea to establish an identity in the profound presence of the military and the abundance of Japanese tourist on island. Even as an undergraduate student, Korean History and Korean language was an uncommon course at the University of Guam. Due to lack of resources, there was only one professor who taught East Asian History courses on island. Even with the opportunity of taking these courses, Korean history was largely overshadowed by Chinese and Japanese text. Hallyu Influence
Although Korean text was scarce on Guam, there were communities of Hallyu present on island. When Hallyu reached Guam in the early 2000s, Korean pop music and Korean dramas have been making headlines with a few group of my peers. Due to YouTube’s expansion, Hallyu related content was easily accessible. K-pop music videos were easily available, K-dramas were watchable, and because of the aesthetical appeal of Hallyu, this drew the interest of millennial and post-millennial generations on island. Over the years, discussion about Korean pop culture was close to becoming a norm. A majority of the island residence know and are aware of Korean pop music and dramas. Additionally, more of Korea’s image has been peaking the interest of the island community. In the past five years, multiple Korean restaurants have been established, Korean beauty products have been in popular demand, and an increase in the Korean market has shifted a change in the tourism industry. Korean cuisines such as Samgyeopsal, Tteokbokki, Haemul Pajeon, and a variety of Korean dishes have been raved by local families. Residences on island have also been looking into various beauty products such as Etude House, Innisfree, and Missha. And with the influx of Korean tourist on island, an understanding of Korean culture has been integrated in the tourism industry. Gradually, Korean language has been widespread in marketing components such as flyers, transportation, restaurant menus, etc. As a result, the Korean language has also been a preferred skill in the tourism industry with the increase of Korean tourist traveling to Guam. Korea’s Mascot
Although Korea’s image has made its way in the island of Guam, it still struggles in promoting its history and culture. It’s still buried beneath the overwhelming popularity of Hallyu. In order to fully expand and internationalize Korea, the establishment of a mascot would be a creative marketing strategy in the progression of Korea’s image. Although the promotions of enriching content are key components, we currently live in a generation that indulges in multimedia. Therefore, new approaches in expanding Korea should be considered for effective internationalization of their history and culture. Personally, when I think of nations across the globe, I associate mascots or characters in the representation of its country. For example, I associate China instantly with the giant panda (picture 1). When I think of the United States, I think of Disney’s most famous character, Mickey Mouse (picture 2). Likewise, with Japan, I would quickly think of Pikachu from the Pokémon franchise (picture 3). A creative strategy that would significantly improve Korea’s image is establishing a mascot that conveys a lasting impression for everyone to remember. Developing a mascot is challenging, for one, it should be simplistic. Much like with Pandas, Mickey Mouse and Pikachu, when designing a mascot for Korea, it should be a character that can be easily recognizable. It doesn’t necessarily have to be one character, nor it doesn’t have to be a new mascot as well. For that reason, Kakao Friends, characters in Korea’s most popular messaging platform, would be great mascots in representing Korea for the expansion and internationalization of Korea’s image.Kakao Friends Global Expansion
With Kakako Friends immense popularity in Korea, it’s not surprising to see that it became pretty well known already in parts of the world. One reason involves the recent influx of the Hallyu wave. Fans around the world are aware of these characters through their favorite K-pop idols and Korean dramas. An example written by blogger JK Song explains, having the popular actor Lee Min Ho in the Drama “Heirs” use the Kakao app has helped boosted its popularity in Indonesia and Singapore. Aside from their expansion in Asia, they may also be the first form of contact with tourist visiting Korea. Their marketing expansion from T-money, rechargeable smart cards to merchandise allows tourist to familiarize themselves with these characters as well. Even more, with the increasing movement of traveling students through cultural exchange programs, Kakao can initially be introduced to foreigners as mean of communication in contacting friends. That being said, it is at the edge of the tipping point of global expansion by just word of mouth.Kakao Ambassadors
The concept of Kaokao Friends as Kakao Ambassadors could work effortlessly in introducing Korea in the global market. In what ways can this be progressive? By simply assigning each character or duo a theme can draw any ages in learning Korean history and culture. Since each character has a profoundly unique personality already established, finding a fitting cultural and historical theme for each of them can make it relatable and understandable for foreigners. To fully establish this goal, there needs to be cooperative teamwork between the franchise, the Korean government, and the Korean International affairs for this strategy to be successful. In a blog post written by JT on Snack Fever, here are some of my ideas in incorporating historical and cultural aspects of Korea with the existing characters.Ambassador Themes
Ryan, also known as the leader of the group could be in charge of promoting Korean history. Characterized as being strong and gentle, he would be a formidable representative in teaching Korean history to foreigners in the event that cultural presentations are scheduled for overseas promotions. Muzi and Con, described as the charming duo of Kaokao friends, perfectly fits the representation of the cultural difference and experiences in the Korean educational system. During university exchange programs or even overseas program, the duo can be a catalyst in informing foreigners of the Korean education system, aiding in the expansion of student exchanges. Third, we have Neo and Frodo, the power couple in the Kakao franchise. There personalities best fit the lifestyle of Korean society, in which they can be the representative for in promoting the Korean economy. With the remaining three characters, Jay-G, Tube, and Apeach, Jay-G can embody the changes in Korean music, Tube can expand on various Korean cuisines, and Apeach can explore the popular growth of Hallyu influences around the world.Conclusion
Even with the Hallyu influcence across the world, it still doesn’t touch heavily on Korean history and culture. A majority of the content that is popularly widespread are music, drama, and food. It’s overshawdoed by aesthics, in which some foreigners look beyond the history and cultural differences. The idea of having Kakao Friend become ambassadors, it targets a wider generation. And by compressing and simplifying the contents, it becomes easier to learn, recollect, and share.