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Cultural Iconization in South Korea
One of the most overt forces for cultural change in the world is the Olympics, a highly coveted opportunity for host countries to effectuate and display modern progress. In 2018, the Winter Olympics was hosted in South Korea in the small, economically depressed city of PyeongChang. When this host location was announced, many people wondered why the city would try something so daring in their situation, and whether they would be left off in a worse position when the Olympic games were over. During the Summer of 2018, I conducted ethnographic research in various parts of South Korea for three months, with the goal to gauge the lingering social and cultural effects of the 2018 Winter Olympics in South Korea generally and Pyeongchang specifically. I found that the people of Pyeongchang have utilized the opportunity the Olympics presented to create and promote their image to the world as a healthy, natural paradise away from large cities.This intentional restructuring and iconization of local culture is done in an effort to attract tourists and retired seniors to the area, which they believe will stimulate their struggling economy. This case is one example which shows an ongoing process by which participants in a culture adapt and call attention to their own culture in order to meet specific societal goals. In a world where image can make all the difference in a region’s economy, examining this example can provide insights to the effects this worldwide phenomenon has on previously unnoted regions whose’ citizens seek a spot in the limelight.
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