Many advertisers regard the colorful billboards in Times Square as some of the world’s best spots to catch the attention of passersby. A 30-second video titled “Dokdo is part of Korea” will be played twice an hour, 48 times a day, on the billboard on which CNN broadcasts news throughout the day.
It was uploaded to YouTube a short while ago:
Hawaii. This is part of America. Sicilia. This is part of Italy. Bali. This is part of Indonesia. Dokdo. This is part of Korea. These are very simple facts. Visit Dokdo. The beautiful island of Korea.
In an earlier draft of this post I went through all the familiar themes that come up each time Dokdo, the Sea of Japan, or Kim Jang-hoon make the news. I'm not really in the mood to go through all that again, so I'll just close with some points specific to this ad.
Koreans frequently show a strong aversion to using proofreaders, to having native English speakers look over their English, and to running their ad ideas by non-Koreans when their ads are, in fact, intended for non-Koreans. Matter of fact, anecdotal evidence and my own experiences inform me that it hardly ever occurs to anyone to try those three things. This ad is an example of something that will look good in Korean-language papers but that won't have any effect on "foreigners" except to spawn some blog posts and a lot of comments. Here are some bullet points, because I'm too tired to make paragraphs:
* Complete this series of analogies:America : Hawaii
Italy : Sicily
Indonesia : Bali
I'd be absolutely shocked if you answered anything other than Jeju. I wonder if Jeju, "Korea's Hawaii," resents all the attention the 46-acre islets get. When my students used to draw maps of Korea they'd frequently include Dokdo as a show of national pride, but would leave off the country's largest island.
* Why conclude with "Visit Dokdo"? If the point is establishing Korea's ownership over the islands, why switch over to tourism? Comparatively few people want to even visit Korea, let alone a bunch of virtually uninhabited, and uninhabitable, rocks in the middle of nowhere. Trips to Dokdo, when you can get a reservation and when the weather permits you to actually reach the islets, consist of little more than getting off and on the boat. It is not to be confused with a holiday destination by any means.
* I have never seen a picture of Dokdo island. Save your emails, I'm sure one exists, but my point is Dokdo is always shown as a pair of islands. The slogan on the official Dokdo website is "The beautiful island of Korea," but that's not reflected in the popular representation of the islets or even in the characters created by South Gyeongsang province.
* The ad has, um, "very simple facts," but after watching the viewer still has no idea what Dokdo is, why it's part of Korea, why there was ever any question about that, and why they should care. Oh, and why they should visit it. Although this issue is vitally important to Koreans, it really must be understood that this is of absolutely no interest to everyone else, and potential advertisers should not take it for granted that their audience knows about the dispute and comes anywhere near giving a damn about it.