Friday, June 09, 2006

The Chosun* Ones

A few weeks ago, a client asked us what kind of public relations should be proactively planned for the Korean market. While we have worked with clients who were concerned about Europe, Japan, and the various pieces of the Chinese market, in spite of 20-plus years of working with technology companies, I didn’t know. As a matter of fact, the question had not arisen before. Fortunately, our client has a Korean investor so we all went off and had a discussion with them to talk about the issue.

Here’s what we learned (in short):

• It appears that, for the most part, start ups do not need to do proactive PR in Korea.
• The market is quite closely knit and personal one-on-one relationships are the strongest way to get the word out.
• The partner at this Korean investment firm even commented that when a start up looks to be trying too hard to get attention in Korean papers, it might be viewed with suspicion.
• In addition to building personal relationships within the network of influencers in Korea, having a good market position in the U.S. and the U.S. press is valuable. The important information apparently makes its way to Korea.

This was a particularly interesting conversation since Korea is gaining so much prominence in the world of technology because of its leading stance in implementing advanced communications technologies. As a matter of fact, by coincidence, yesterday I attended a conference called “Kincon 2006” put on by The Korea IT Network ( It was primarily attended by Koreans and people of Korean descent in the Silicon Valley. But of note was that Qualcomm sent two speakers. Qualcomm clearly thinks Korea is an important market since it is the most advanced communications market in the world.

Is Qualcomm onto something? And while we are talking about being proactive in Korea, we can’t forget that Samsung has had one of the most successful marketing programs in the world over the past few years. I know they were not only targeting Korea, but it started there.

All this leaves me wondering: in spite of the advice I cited above, should we all be thinking a little differently about marketing in Korea? If you have thoughts and opinions, please let me know.

*Chosun is a word often used to describe things Korean; it is based on an ancient Korean dynasty.


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