Friday, May 12, 2006

Symbols of Korea?

Korea Searches for Unifying Symbol

I can understand why Korea wants some sort of symbol so badly. Some countries have physical symbols that everyone recognizes - Big Ben. The Eiffel Tower. The Taj Majal. The Great Wall. St. Basil's Cathedral. Other countries - Germany and Japan and Spain, for instance - don't have the same kind of universally famous architectural symbols, but they have a well-known history and culture that makes them stand out in peoples' minds.

Korea doesn't have anything to match this. There's no archtectural symbol that signifies Korea to people in other countries. And what do people in other countries think of when they think of Korean culture? Kim Jeong-il making trouble? Kimchi? Dog soup?

I think if any kind of internationally known symbol for Korea appears then it's going to have to arise organically. Not because the Korean government decides it would be cool to promote overseas. Hangeul in particular does not seem like a particularly good choice. You can talk all you want about the uniqueness of the Korean alphabet, and you may be right, but at the end of the day every national language in the world has a writing system, and promoting Korea's as a symbol of the country will just seem really geeky.

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