Hangeul or the Korean alphabet is enjoying newfound popularity for labels and store signs.
At the start of globalization, English or French words were heavily favored over indigenous Korean shop names and labels as they were deemed more exotic and sophisticated. But that has changed, and now Hangeul is considered cooler both at home and in other parts of Asia. This is mainly due to young people who have embraced Korean pop culture.
The Namchon Country Club in Gwangju, Gyeonggi Province had planned to change its name to something more English-sounding when it carried out renovations two years ago since all its competitors were using faux-posh foreign names like Trinity and Hillside. But management eventually decided to stick to the original name, and it paid off.
Designer Choi Sung-hee said, "People now think names or logos with big-sounding foreign words or phrases are embarrassing and outdated."
Only three years ago a major newspaper complained that more than half of the store signs in university areas were in foreign languages. Now all that has changed. A quick stroll through the alleys near Seoul National University reveals many more signs in Korean than in foreign languages.
Kim Eun-kyul, a 26-year-old student, said, "Many people of my generation have traveled abroad a lot and are able to speak foreign languages, so we feel it's cooler to see plain Hangeul than foreign languages used badly or wrongly."
Lee Yang-in, a 31-year-old café owner in Itaewon, Seoul, said, "Hangeul signs are easy to understand and are pretty much self-explanatory. Plus they look cute and simple, so young people like it very much. It's not a marketing strategy riding on patriotism, it's a trend and style."