Public relations in Korea

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Existing public relations theories were developed largely in the United States. Public relations in Korea functions differently than that in the United States due to differences in cultural and business systems. I learned a lot about public relations at Newhouse School of Public Communication, but what I experienced from my summer internship at Korean public relations agency, Korcom Porter Novelli, is different from what I have learned.

When I had an internship at Korcom, I realized that how they do public relations for their clients was different from western models of public relations even though its business system was adopted from the United States.

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PR degree doesn’t matter.

Most of its employees did not have degrees on public relations. In order to work in public relations agencies in Korea, having a public relations degree isn’t a beneficial factor. Companies do prefer students majoring in public relations when they hire them as interns, but when they hire higher positioned employees, someone who knows business will take advantages.  The problem was that its employees were not passionate and caring for what they were doing for their clients. Generally their major goal was to maximize their clients’ profits, and  they did not even care about the clients’ reputations –This is really bad. I truly believe that, as  public relations practitioners, we need to be more passionate about what we do.

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Relationships are the best in Korean PR

Most campaigns were created based on press conferences and media relations. Giving out gifts to reporters for good media coverage is a normal act. One time, a manager said that relationships with reporters are the most important part of public relations. What all they do is flattering the targeted reporters for better coverage for their stories – companies operating in Korea are not interested in the high value disciplines of public relations but more so on control of the story especially in terms of guaranteeing positive coverage. It is considered as ethically wrong in the United States, but it is common in Korea. When they make a final report to their clients about certain campaigns or events, the numbers of coverage about the campaigns or events were the measurement of their success. This shows that Korean PR heavily relies on media relations. Media relations is huge because Korea still remains as a place where offline and traditional media are the most credible and influential.

From these two key features, I saw a lot of problems in Korean public relations during internship. Research, strategies and tactics were non-existed. It would be a perfect example why public relations practitioners are called as spin-doctors. As working there, I could not even believe what’s out to public. Even single news article or blog reviews about certain products made me to doubt where this information came from – maybe people from PR or marketing departments. Public is now getting controlled information, and even some information were manipulated.

Public relations in Korea has evolved in many ways along with the country’s development. A lot of Korean companies are leading in global markets. In order to take a place even more at the global level, they should have right forms of public relations and they need to shape up better practices and regulations.

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