By: Jung Min-ho
The Seoul Metropolitan Government (SMG) will announce the capital city’s new slogan today.
However, whichever the city government ends up choosing among the final options — “SEOULing,” “I.Seoul.You,” and “Seoulmate” — it will not serve to promote the city, according to many experts and expats.
“SEOULing seems like the least-worst option out of the list,” an expert from a global PR firm based in New York City told The Korea Times. “All three are not appealing by any means and they don’t capture the essence of the city. I can’t believe these are best the city government came up with.”
These are English slogans that are supposed to appeal to an international audience, but they are difficult to understand for English speakers, said another American expert from a PR company based in Seoul.
A total of 1,000 citizens and 10 PR experts were asked to participate in an on-the-spot poll; then, the SMG determined the winner after adding up online voting results.
But many, including Jenny Jackson-Smith, a Canadian who has lived in Seoul over three years, say they don’t feel like voting for any of the final options.
“I’m not a fan of any of them, but the one that bothers me the least is Seoulmate,” she said. “It is the best out of the three as an English pun. But a mate is a person, so it still seems awkward.”
When asked about their opinions on the final three, many wondered if the SMG ever even surveyed opinions from foreigners when selecting them. But it did.
The SMG launched a contest this summer asking both Koreans and foreigners to submit their ideas for the slogan.
However, what went wrong was the process of narrowing down 16,000 entries. According to an SMG official in charge of the project, there was only one foreigner in an advisory group of 28 experts.
Once a favored 20 had been selected, the group members exchanged their opinions and produced a top 10 before the last three remained.
At this stage, candidates such as “Surprising Seoul” and “Find Your Seoul” — slogans that appear to be more attractive to foreigners — were culled.
Three slogans submitted by Koreans eventually took the top three spots.
Reactions from foreigners have largely been negative. Addressing the issue, the advisors said that they selected the slogans that leave room for interpretation of meaning.
“They might be unfamiliar at the beginning, just like many other successful slogans for cities in other countries,” they claimed in a statement. “After a while, it will feel more natural.”
Bae Jong-chan, director of Research and Research, believes the slogan are unlikely to survive that long.
“It will likely be another example of bad bureaucracy,” he said. “Unfortunately, I think the slogan will be short-lived, just like Hi Seoul.