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Yet another PR disaster for Winter Olympics: 'It's you, PyeongChang'

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/ Korea Times photo by Lee Han-soo
/ Korea Times photo by Lee Han-soo

By Lee Han-soo, Park Si-soo

"It's you, PyeongChang."

It makes sense grammatically, but what does it mean?

Many foreigners scratched their heads after reading the sentence featuring in an advertisement in major newspapers on Monday meant to promote the nation's first winter Olympics in the mountain city of PyeongChang in February 2018.

The Gangwon Province government that created the ad said "It's you, PyeongChang" was intended to promote that every member of the global village, Koreans and non-Koreans alike, has a role to make the event a success.

Yet few seemed to have found the message from it.

"The phrase doesn't reach me in anyway," said Celeste Kriel, a South African living in Seoul. "It can be interpreted in so many ways that it's hard to grasp the message."

An American teacher in Seoul said, "It sounds like they are really missing PyongChang... Maybe PyongChang is their long lost lover?"

Several other foreigners told The Korea Times that the message "unclear" and bewildering.

A Gangwon spokesman told The Korea Times that the provincial government wanted to tell Koreans that the games were not just a Korean event but a world festival.

He said the game's preparation was now on rocky road because of a reduced budget and weak public interest amid a burgeoning corruption scandal involving President Park Geun-hye and her long-time friend Choi Soon-sil.

The public feeling about the games turned negative after it was found that Choi's niece earned illegal money from a business related to the event.

"With the scandal dealing a blow to the PyongChang Winter Olympics, we wanted to remind everyone that the Olympics is not just a national event, but one for all people around the world," the spokesman said.

Another problem is that the local government sent out the advertisement without consulting the organizing committee.

The games are being promoted by three organizations that are -- the PyeongChang Organizing Committee for the 2018 Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games, the Gangwon Provincial Office and the Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism.

The three are supposed to work together closely based on a memorandum of understanding, but in reality coordination is nowhere to be seen when it comes to promotional campaigns.

This was not the first public embarrassment related to the Olympics.

In October, the culture and sports ministry came under fire for what critics claimed was a "poor" and "embarrassing" promotional video.

Costing about 275 million won ($240,000), the video, titled "ARARI, YO," was lambasted because its quality was "so tacky that it does not live up to the name value of the global event."

The ministry explained it was not an official advertisement, but a promotional video to attract foreigners.

Park Si-soo


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