Monday, April 18, 2011

Tacos and Kimchi...Great, now I'm hungry.

It would seem to me that Korea is on the right track in realizing it needs a re-branding strategy. I mean, I didn't even know Hyundai and Samsung were Korean...let along LG (Lucky Goldstar? What?!). So either Korea has been lacking greatly in the branding department, or I have been living under a rock like the Geico commercials. I'm leaning a little towards both.

According to a blog post "Korean Tacos and Kimchi Diplomacy" posted through the USC Center on Public Diplomacy, Korea's recent branding efforts have come from the realization that their products seem to have more recognition than the country itself. Clearly not an ideal situation. So the solution? Gastrodiplomacy. Korea is going to win the hearts of minds of the international community with Kimchi. And let's not laugh this off, it seems to have worked with Thailand. I mean seriously, who doesn't eat Thai food?

But really, will I visit Thailand, or even Korea, because of some Thai food or Kimchi? The article emphasizes the importance of listening in diplomacy, ever proving to be a difficult concept to understand and implement apparently. Rather than just advocating its gastrodiplomacy out, Korea could be looking for local opportunities to sponser gastro-events in foreign locales. Not a bad idea. Because then my taco wouldn't just be a taco that happens to be Korean, but it would be, say, a "brought to me by Korea" taco from those convenient food trucks that DC has grown to love so much. And that could make all the difference.


  1. As a member of the group that reported on Korea (but not kimchi diplomacy--that was Liza!), I definitely agree that Korea needs to figure out how to make people recognize their country and not just their products (or at least immediately recognize their products as Korean). I do think Korea is moving in the right direction with kimchi diplomacy, however. But you are right to suggest that they utilize the newfound popularity of Korean taco trucks to do some listening as well. As Liza suggested in our presentation, placing Korean food at major (or even not as major) international food festivals would not only help with overall recognition of Korean culture, but would also provide excellent opportunities for listening--how do Americans (or British, or French, or Brazilian...etc) feel about Korea? How much do they really know about its history? What's the first thing they think of when someone says "Korea"? Gastrodiplomacy would be an ideal way to start listening and hearing the answers to these questions: food is universal, after all, and food festivals would be a great, informal way to get listening started.

  2. Ah, but a kimchi quesadilla is divine.