So there's this new ad that has been spotted in places like CNN.
Yeah. Soak it in.
I have a few problems with this ad:
First, it looks more like an ad for the Galaxy Tab (if that's what the guy's carrying) than an ad for Korea. Seriously. In fact, it would make more sense as a Galaxy Tab ad - "Samsung is supplying the whole world with tablet technology...um...except Germany" In that context, the ad would have made more sense.
Next, very few people wear their nation's traditional dress when traveling abroad. Even Texans usually leave their horses at home. And maybe even their Segways.
Also, who the hell asks THESE kinds of questions (in their own language) of a random stranger on the street? "Is it true that you're the 7th largest exporter?" (I don't know how google works.)
Anyway, what would Koreans do if somebody approached them, dressed like Napoleon,
and asked them a question in French?
Here's what they'd do:
(an ad aimed at Koreans - "don't act QUITE so scared when you see a foreigner, or they'll know Korean hospitality is only for non-strangers")
The ad ends with a whole line-up of stereotypes walking towards the camera in some sort of a xenophobe's nightmare.
I've got Dutch background, so should I be upset that there isn't someone dressed like this in the ad?
Or maybe, like the Arabian belly dancer on the far right at the end of the ad (who almost certainly doesn't even dress that way on the street in her own blessed country)...
I should dress like one of the Netherlands' other famous identifiers. (the source)
Or a Canadian mountie -- after all, one of the Queen's Guard is there.
Other screen shots from the ad, in case it gets pulled from youtube:
Key message: "Even though we think you're all cowboys, we want you to visit our country, Americans."
I wonder how many cowboys know what bibimbap is.
Yes. In some middle-easternern countries, people do dress this way every day. When they travel abroad? Perhaps.
Seems a little elaborate for a travel outfit... then again, I passed a pair of harajuku girls on a street in Hongdae a few saturday nights ago.
"Excuse me. I got lost on the way to the ballroom."
"Galaxy Tab: all the information you need to help random, oddly-dressed strangers"
Here's the whole crew of them in Gwanghwamun Square.
Including Connor MacLeod
A Hopak dancer (I think)
A flamenco dancer. (correct me if I'm wrong on any of these)
A... shaolin monk, perhaps? Because Koreans wear Taekwondo uniforms when they travel abroad.
Oh. And a tall African wearing a brightly-colored toga. He's in the back row, so I can't tell whether he's carrying a spear, or if there's a bone in his nose. (we've seen worse, but still...)
A mexican with a sombrero. (At least they couldn't find anyone who was mexican, or looked mexican, and was shameless enough to wear a sombrero for the camera)
By the way, the Cowboy's name...
This brazilian lady was busy: she had to go straight from the parade float to the airport.
I can't quite tell who this guy's supposed to be.
Thankfully, the American Indian (complete with feather, facepaint and buckskin pants) DID end up on the cutting room floor. Barely.
Rest in peace, Iron Eyes Cody.
I think that if everybody else is wearing their national stereotyped clothes, they should put the Korean guy in a hanbok, or at least a taekwondo uniform, for one thing. I don't know how this ad is going to impress anyone enough to decide to come to Korea, when one of the messages it seems to communicate is "Hey. We don't know anything except the broadest stereotypes of your country. So why don't you broaden your horizons by coming to a country where our ad implies that people will expect you to wear a sombrero if you're from mexico." And if this ad were to reflect the actual flows of tourists to Korea, then the elephant in the room is, "Why so few South and Southeast Asian outfits?" Not even an Indian sari? Or one of those fantastic Thai headdresses?
There are other ways to have communicated that these people are from other countries, than dressing them like friggin' Napoleon - flags on backpacks, or you could even have a flag show up on the corner of the screen, or floating above their head like the character info on an online role play game, without diving into this "let's dress foreigners in silly costumes" mess.
I don't know if it quite heads into straight-up offensive territory, but it is definitely, definitely tone deaf. And if my sources are correct, and I'm pretty sure they are, the producers were told this ad was wrong-minded, patronizing and maybe a little racist, on no uncertain terms, and they ran it anyway. So... I guess they were keeping those westerners around to make their office feel international, and not because the people promoting Korea actually care what foreigners think about their "visit Korea" ads.
and yeah, this ad, seen by Koreans, will do a good job of making Koreans feel good about Korea.
But that's not the point of international Korean tourism promotions, is it? And it hardly requires buying ad space on CNN, when KBS or MBC will reach more Koreans anyway. Hell, why not just have the narration in Korean?