Sunday, October 22, 2006

State of the Union

It's a fair bet that this shoe-shop with a Union Flag on its sign isn't selling anything much from the UK. In fact, the interior suggests the sort of low-end store where endless Chinese imports can be purchased at a fairly cheap price.

Not only have I seen a few stores with Union Flags displayed prominently for no apparent reason, but it's surprising how the flag crops up on a fairly regular basis on the clothing of the local population. Conversely, no-one seems to wear a US flag on their clothing or use it to promote their store, but this isn't surprisi
ng considering the love-hate relationship South Koreans seem to have with Americans. Maybe the British have something in common with the Koreans there. Perhaps as showing the Stars and Stripes here is something of a social faux pas, the Union Flag has become a convenient surrogate for creating cynical marketing illusions of Western 'quality' and values. Certainly, local television contains a number of pseudo-British clothing ads with names like Bean Pole International, which with its somewhat negative connotations of being too tall and too thin, doesn't strike you as the wisest of branding for any company with genuine UK connections. Then again, maybe Koreans aspire to be too tall and too thin. As I am not tall, and decreasingly thin, I can sympathise with this.

Anti-American feeling, both among Koreans and perhaps even non-American foreigners (who are certainly tired of always being assumed to be American) is such that "I am not an American" t-shirts have been quite the hot-seller in Seoul recently.

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