Skip to content

Searchers and Planners: South Korea’s Two Approaches to Nation Branding


South Korea, an economically advanced and highly modernized country that suffers from an undeservedly weak national brand, has been eagerly pursuing various measures to improve its image abroad. Currently, there appears to be two main forces of nation branding in Korea: the Korean government’s official nation branding campaign and the private sector-driven Korean Wave (termed Hallyu in Korean). While both have the same effect of contributing to the enhancement of Korea’s national brand, they differ greatly in their approach to nation branding. The government’s nation branding campaign employs a more or less top-down method (the “planners” approach), in which plans and decisions are made by a government council and subsequently implemented by various agencies. The Korean Wave, on the other hand, is a market-driven phenomenon that has been generated mainly by the efforts of private sector companies to respond to consumer demand for Korean pop culture (the “searchers” approach). This paper examines the strengths and weaknesses of both approaches and suggests the need for a more integrated approach in which the public and private sectors, along with help from the general public, cooperate more closely in a complementary and effective manner.

Regina Kim is a second-year M.A. student at SAIS concentrating in Korea Studies. She graduated from Yale University in 2007 with a B.A. in French. While in college, she had the opportunity to study abroad for a semester in Paris, and it was there that she developed an appreciation for other cultures and learned about foreign perspectives on international issues. After graduating from college, she interned for the Culture and Arts Division of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade in Seoul, South Korea, where she worked on various projects to promote Korean culture in other countries. After SAIS, she plans to work in public relations to help South Korea promote its national image in the United States and in other countries.