Actor and singer Ryu Si-won received the Seoul Tourism Award Thursday in recognition for his work in attracting about 12,000 Japanese tourists to Korea a year.
Thousands of people visit Korea on Oct. 6 for his birthday party and thousands of others see him race at auto racing tracks. He also drew 80,000 spectators to his concerts in various regions of Japan and has reached a level of stardom there that is on par with local artists.
In an interview with The Korea Times at the award ceremony, Ryu said in order to show Korea to the world, Koreans should deliver the culture in the respective country’s way. He said it is showing the respect for their culture and customs.
“Some people praise those people who stick to speaking Korean and living in Korean style abroad_ saying they are patriotic. However, what is the purpose of using Korean when nobody understands a word? Just repeating that Korean culture is the best could be a disrespect toward the country where you are staying,” he said.
His strategy fits with Ryu’s way of approaching the Japanese market. Many hallyu stars “drop by” Japan, hold several fan meetings and sign lucrative endorsement deals for products following the conventional “Korean top start route.” But he started from scratch ― signed with a local agency; showed up on as many little TV programs as possible and released 16 Japanese singles and albums in just four years. He followed a Japanese style of marketing and positioning, though his popularity was high enough to stick to the Korean style.
“Let’s say we have a Japanese entertainer here. Wouldn’t you expect the person to follow Korean style, speak Korean and actively interact with Koreans more often?” he said. He said in using this strategy, he attracted more Japanese fans, some of whom eventually visited Korea to get to know him better.
Koreans also acknowledged his passion. He has been appointed as the Promotional Ambassador of Korean Tourism and Culture for three consecutive years since 2006 and received the Presidential Citation last year for contributing to promoting tourism.
As the goodwill ambassador, Ryu recommended tourists to Korea look into “ordinary lives” of Koreans. “I have stayed in Japan for more than four years. Some say Korea and Japan look very much alike, but I find the two very different as time goes by. Visiting local markets, walking around residential areas, looking at what ordinary Koreans do, what they eat and how they share love will give more of an idea to observe the differences and embrace them,” he said.
Ryu also told The Korea Times about a future project ― the SBS TV Drama series “Style”. The show starts shooting this week for airing every Saturday and Sunday beginning in September.
Ryu will play the role of doctor-turned-chef Seon-woo, a character that shows both the dark and soft side of a man. “It is very trendy and contemporary material. It’s my first drama in five years and I wanted to show my fans in Korea and overseas what I can do best; what Korean youngsters are dreaming and worrying about at this very moment,” he said. (Korea Times)