National Identity in the Era of Global Competitiveness: A Critical Analysis of Nation Branding Through the Case of South Korea

  • Abstract:

    By looking at the phenomenon of nation branding, and focusing on the South Korean presidential nation branding strategy over recent years, this article tries to uncover how the imperative of competitiveness has moved from the corporate sector to the representation of national identity. By asking why more and more governments feel compelled to implement nation branding campaigns, and what identity South Korea in particular has tried to sell to a global audience, I contribute to an understanding of how a certain discourse of globalization structures the form of modern states in their identity and the image they associate with it. Rather than treating the issue of nation branding from a policy-oriented perspective, as has been done numerous times by marketing consultancies and scholars alike, I approach it as a form of proactive identity projection, the phenomenon through which national identity is embedded in the contemporary discourse on global competitiveness. Influenced by Foucault’s understanding of power, the central argument of this article is that a powerful discourse of globalization deploys an intangible normative framework with tangible effects on contemporary understandings of national identity, imposed by a specific form of non-coercive power. National governmentshire private consultants to perform identities and political programs according to this framework. In other words, states are non-coercively constrained to share normalized self-representations. The South Korean case is a salient feature of this trend, and is an exemplary case study of the interactions between global structures and local factors in the nation branding phenomenon.