Tuesday, September 20, 2005

Just how much anti-Americanism? (Part 1A)

The Korea-related blogosphere loves to talk about how anti-American (or anti-Japanese or pro-North) Korea is at heart, but a lot of fortuitous evidence runs counter to that.

Exhibit 241 is GM-Daewoo's advertisement for the Lacetti, a Korean-made medium-to-small car that is sold by parent company GM around the world. The advertisement emphasizes that this car is sold in Europe as a Chevrolet.

Setting aside momentarily that GM is openly promoting that they are stripping the Korean identity off their "World car," at least in Europe, they are pointing out to the Korean audience that this Korean-made car is good enough to be labeled with an American brand. (Incidentally, the same car is sold in North America as a Suzuki Reno.)

To many Koreans, American brands (or Japanese brands, and some European brands like Philips) represent quality that Korean companies can/should aspire to, but that isn't enough to explain Daewoo using this in their Korean ads. Clearly, there has to be an understood acceptance that it's good to be associated with an American company.

So if anti-Americanism, visceral knee-jerk sentiment despising the U.S., were really as high in Korea as it is made out to be, a company like Daewoo would consider it marketing suicide to deliberately associate its product with a major American brand. If anything, Daewoo would be downplaying the GM side of GM-Daewoo. [To be fair, in the wake of the 1997-98 economic crisis, there was a good measure of xenophobia due to the impression (a not entirely fair one) that foreign companies were taking advantage of Korea's weakened status to buy up Korean assets; GM itself was seen as a culprit when it bought out Daewoo, although a lot of people saw that Daewoo was a basket case that needed to be saved by someone.]

My own opinion is that so-called "anti-Americanism" among the general population is not as visceral or mindless as it is made out to be by the press (which feeds on sensationalism) or the blogosphere (which tends to magnify things until the cockroach's head looks as big as a baby's), and certainly not as widespread. If it really were that dominant, Korea would look very different from how it actually does, starting with its ads.

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