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Asiana’s response to crash shows different attitude toward public relations

July 10, 2013

Following Saturday’s deadly crash-landing in San Francisco, the decision of South Korean airline Asiana not to seek communications help in the United States reflects a national corporate culture of keeping public relations in-house and a limited preparedness for crisis communications, industry officials in Seoul tell The Wall Street Journal. The company hasn’t arranged for any spokespeople outside of Korea and has turned down offers of communications help in the United States after the crash, a Journal blog reports.

“Few big Korean companies take outside counseling if a crisis happens,” said James Chung, chief partner at Strategy Salad, a Seoul-based crisis communications firm.  In South Korea executives are reluctant to use outside counsel, fearing it will interfere with management and decision-making, Chung says. Mike Weisbart, principal at Tower Communications in Seoul, says public relations is often treated as an afterthought in Korea.

Yoon Young-doo, Asiana’s CEO, reportedly is in San Francisco helping coordinate the company’s response to the crash. Until Tuesday he was in Korea and holding daily briefings, including apologies for the deaths of two Chinese teenagers in the crash. The company has provided statements and updates to the media, but an Asiana representative says now is “not the proper time to manage the company’s image.” — Greg Beaubien


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