Let’s say you’ve just been convicted of a crime in Korea, and you’re going to spend a little time in prison. That’s not really going to be a pleasant experience. Never fear–Borami will be around to brighten your day. Who’s Borami? He’s the mascot of the Korean Correction Bureau, which manages Korean prisons. Borami is a caricature of a bear bedecked in a police uniform. He has a female counterpart who wears a dress. Whenever you feel life is too difficult in prison, you can always find Borami popping up from time to time to make you feel just a little bit better.
Let’s say you just bought a ticket to ride the KTX high-speed train from Seoul to Busan. You enter the train platform, where the KTX awaits. Chirpo is there to greet you and wish you a safe journey. Who’s Chirpo? He’s a cat (I think, although possibly androgynous) dressed in riding gear with a cyclist helmut. Chirpo is the mascot of Korail, Korea’s national railway. His regalia denotes speed and efficiency.
Chirpo and Borami are jsut two of many cutesy caricatures that represent the Korean government’s ministries and bureaus. I find it fascinating that these organizations use animation to soften and personalize their public image. Borami is the most obvious example. Does Borami help cut down on the number of inmates handled by the Korea Correction Bureau? Probably not. Does he help the bureau in its relations with the Korean public? Yes, I believe so. Hardened criminals may not appreciate the caricatures, but visitors who visit them likely do. In addition to caricatures, Korean government organizations use a variety of attractive images to appeal to the general public, including the extensive use of cute children and foreigners, mostly non-Asians, in marketing materials. These images are typically cuter and more animated than what Americans prefer. After all, many Americans would think it odd to find a teddy bear-like caricature representing the U.S. prison system.
Among all the caricatures I have seen in Korea, Chirpo is my favorite. Then again, I hope to see as little of Borami as possible! Here is a short list of caricatures used by Korean government entities:
Juvenile Protection Education Institute (for juveniles): JPEI
Korail (Korean Railway): Chirpo
Korean National Tourism Organization: Boy and girl in traditional Korean dress
I attached images of each so you have an idea of what they look like. If you visit Korea, be on the lookout for excessively cute caricatures.