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South Korea's big year embodied in Toronto

In 2012 we’ve fallen in love with Galaxy phones and "Gangnam Style." Now these forces have joined—in Canada.

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It’s been quite the year for South Korea, the reasons for which are about to converge in Toronto. South Korean pop star PSY, famous for the ridiculously popular viral hit “Gangnam Style,” is coming to Canada for the first time ever on Oct. 30.

And who do we have to thank? Why it’s another South Korean cultural behemoth, albeit of a different sort—Samsung, whose Galaxy phones have helped the firm become the leading smartphone-seller in the world, something it accomplished in about two years, before which it didn’t even have a smartphone.

And it is, in fact, the launch of a new Galaxy phone, the Galaxy Note II, that’s bringing the dancing sensation to our shores. On Monday, Samsung announced PSY would be performing at Kool Haus in Toronto as part of an event promoting the new phone. Tickets weren’t sold, but rather fans could win them through Samsung’s Facebook page, which gained tens of thousands of new likes as a result. They ran out in no time.

After all, who wouldn’t want to see PSY’s horse-riding-inspired moves in person?   

The event really is a testament to how much South Korea has put itself on the cultural map this year. Few things in 2012 have been hipper than Galaxy phones and “Gangnam Style.” Both could help the nation’s brand abroad.

According to a series of Gallup polls, South Korea has been steadily improving its reputation among Americans over the years, with 65% saying they viewed the country favourably in 2011, the last time South Korea was included in the survey. It seems likely the ubiquity of Samsung smartphones and “Gangnam Style” may help boost that number further.

Japan, also known for its technological and cultural exports, was at 83% this year, so there’s certainly room to grow. (It’s also possible that some of those polled may have confused the Koreas, as Sarah Palin once did.)  

In short, an event like this not only makes Samsung look cooler, but also promotes the company’s country of origin. By picking a South Korean pop star, people are reminded that the company hosting the event is also South Korean. And considering the Bank of Korea said Friday that the South Korean economy slowed to a three-year low last quarter, a bit of brand-boosting may be especially important right now.

Perhaps RIM should take note. They could, I don’t know, call up Carly Rae Jepsen. The B.C. singer’s chart-topper “Call Me Maybe” even has a phone reference. Or maybe not, if RIM’s last foray into the world of melody is anything to go by.

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