So if the 0530 salt seller is too much, perhaps our old nemesis Paris Baguette merely broadcasting its propaganda in a shopping district throughout the day is more acceptable? No, not really. Often they just stick speakers outside Paris with some half-dressed girls (leggy 16-year-olds sell bread it seems), but I noted that the one in the Nampodong district had its public address system properly installed above the sign - audible from half-way down the street no less. Take note - one day everyone in Korea will do this as we lurch inexorably towards that dystopian future run by 'marketing-led' companies. I'd probably buy their bread anyway, I don't know why the Stalinist sales technique has to be employed. Maybe this is what happens when political indoctrination experts move into the commercial sector. Speaking of which, British Nationalism is alive and well in Korea, in large part thanks to the efforts of German-owned Reebok and Korean chain Ask Enquired, which are responsible for the large number of Union Flags on clothing I walk past in the street every day. The Nampodong branch is home to the largest flag I've seen so far. Oddly enough if you did this in England I'd give it a week before your shop window is put through.
A shopping trip in Korea can quickly become an even more surreal affair for the English speaker as you are exposed to ever more bastardisations of the language. I have this nightmare that I stay here too long and when I get back to England all I can speak is Konglish. So what 'Mannish Elegance' exactly means for a women's clothing store remains a mystery, and while I think I agree with the sentiments behind the t-shirt which reads 'In your carears you will meet many peeple. All are signilleant. They deserve you allantion.', it's more disturbing that I actually can understand the meaning at first glance. My wife bought a t-shirt with Vivienne Westwood emblazoned across it., but I don't think she's lending her name to a 5,000 won (about £2.71) clothing line. And do we really believe that the store Jessi hails from New York? Occasionally you learn something though - Ford's rapidly declining brand still carries enough cachet here to be just about worthy of bragging about publicly, even if its exclusivity is largely due to trade barriers and the engrained 'buy Korean' mentality.
At the opposite end of the spectrum Prada really does have cachet here, even if you can buy 'Prada' bags for 40,000 won (£21.68) from street vendors. Oddly enough it seems to do little to devalue the brand, perhaps only adding to the desire to own a bag where the badge is actually properly centred and level. Italian shoes are also an aspiration of sorts, but at 20,000 won (about £10.84) even more affordable, even if 'the Italians' have chosen some rather curious English text about Korea's economy which a little Google research reveals is lifted straight out of a Korea Herald article. And are those 1,000 won hair-clips really made in France? If they are they must have a heck of a carbon footprint, not to mention the economics of shipping cheap plastic half-way around the world.
It seems that in the world of Korean marketing, anything goes, and what certainly is devalued is the truth; I've got to a stage where I don't believe anything I read in Korea about any product. I don't know if I'm supposed to laugh it off or feel concern at the idea of a society where the line between what is true and what is not is not merely blurred, it's not even cared about. Meanwhile, at some macro level, I'm sure the government wants to ensure that the brand 'Korea' engenders trust around the world...