South Korea has had an up and down economy over the past four decades. In 1971 its GDP per capita was comparable with that of a poor African country. In 2004, it joined the trillion dollar club of world economies, and currently is among the world's 20 largest economies.
The Asian financial crisis of 1997-98 hit it hard with GDP contracting by 6.9% in 1998, but then recovering by 9% the year after. Steady growth of around 5% a year ground to a halt in 2009, but by 2010 it was surging ahead at over 6%.
Much of this growth has been due to its digital industries. A strong infrastructure and a propensity towards new technology makes the South Korean comms market an online-rich environment in which to operate. Ken Hong, global communications director at LG Electronics, says: “Multinationals recognise that the people here are quick to pick up on new trends, and so they are keen to invest here.”
However, senior corporate executives are, by and large, not convinced of the value of PR, and so agencies still have a fight on their hands for budgets. Advertising takes the lion's share and insiders report that as much as 80 per cent of the media's revenue still comes from advertising. As a result editorial decisions are sometimes led by advertising, and Korean PR professionals must fight hard to break this link.