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Magazine introduces Kyobo Life’s poetry billboards to the world

 Corporate image ad campaign that posts short poems become cultural icon


Kyobo Life Insurance Co. billboards offering excerpts from poems, which has long been a familiar sight for Seoulites, made their international debut through the quarterly magazine Koreana.

Koreana is a quarterly magazine published since 1987 in eight languages ― Arabic, Chinese, English, French, German, Japanese, Spanish and Russian ― by the Korea Foundation. The Korea Foundation is a state-run organization affiliated to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade established to spread correct information about Korea. 
 
The issue of the Koreana magazine containing the article on Kyobo Life Insurance Co.’s poetry billboard.  (Kyobo Life Insurance Co.)
The issue of the Koreana magazine containing the article on Kyobo Life Insurance Co.’s poetry billboard.  (Kyobo Life Insurance Co.)

The publication is distributed to government, media, academic and cultural organizations in 160 countries.

In the latest issue, the magazine introduced Kyobo Life’s poetry billboards in the article titled “Seoul’s new cultural icon brightens the day of passersby.”

The article said that the billboards had developed beyond a simple advertising campaign aimed at improving the corporate image of Kyobo Life.

“The Gwanghwamun poetry signboard has maintained close relations with the public by reflecting their reality, thereby serving as a window to Korean society,” the article said.

Kyobo Life began the billboard campaign in January 1991 under the direction of the company’s late founder Shin Yong-ho.

At the time, the billboard was dedicated to slogans designed to enlighten and to deliver moral teachings ― the first being “Let’s work together to reinvigorate the economy.”

However, following the Asian Financial Crisis of 1997-98 that crippled the country’s economy, Kyobo Life has taken to filling the billboard with excerpts from the works of famous writers and philosophers that deliver messages of hope.
The billboard on the front of Kyobo Life Insurance’s building in Gwanghwamun, Seoul (Kyobo Life Insurance Co.)
The billboard on the front of Kyobo Life Insurance’s building in Gwanghwamun, Seoul (Kyobo Life Insurance Co.)

Since then the boards that hang on Kyobo Life’s buildings across the country have hosted writings from more than 40 philosophers and writers including Confucius, Hermann Hesse, Alfred Tennyson, Pablo Neruda, Seo Jeong-ju, Ko Un, and Do Jong-hwan, as well as excerpts from Aesop’s Fables and Buddhist scriptures.

Over the years, the campaign has not only become a familiar sight for citizens of Seoul and other areas, but has also received high praise from cultural icons including poet Kim Yong-taek who described it as the “blue sky of Seoul.”

The billboard was included among the Korea Green Foundation’s “100 People Who Light Up Our World” in 2007, and the non-governmental organization Cultural Union for Hangeul gave it a citation for its efforts in promoting the Korean language.

With the billboard gaining the status as something of a cultural icon, the company has adopted a stringent process of selecting the phrase that will be written on the board.

At first the phrase written on the boards, which changes with the turning of the seasons, was selected through an in-house process, but since 2000 Kyobo Life has maintained a seven-member selection committee comprised of writers, professors, and journalists that chooses a phrase from suggestions made by the public and its members.

By Choi He-suk (cheesuk@heraldcorp.com)
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