What Koreans Think of Trump

Over the past few months, some of my Korean coworkers and classmates have asked me about the U.S. presidential elections---specifically regarding Trump. The first of these conversations started in January 2016, when I received a message from my coworker on my office computer. The following conversation ensued:

(Text translated to English)
Co-worker: I have something to ask about
Co-worker:  Not Hillary, the other one
Co-worker: The really offensive person
Me: Donald Trump?
Co-worker: Ah, yeah
Co-worker: That person
Co-worker: Why is he so popular?
Co-worker: I’m curious about that
Me: I don’t know
Me: To be honest, I don’t know why
Co-worker: Doesn’t he just spit stuff out during his speeches?
Me: Yeah, and he is pretty popular
Co-worker: So... Americans like you don’t understand either?
Me: I think it’s mainly people in the South that like him
Co-worker: So he’s popular among people from the countryside?
Me: Not exactly, but very popular among caucasians
Co-worker: Ah, so things like white supremacy still exist? Haha
Me: Republicans are stereotypically conservative and very patriotic
Co-worker: So…?
Me: Well, Trump made it clear that he hates Muslims
Co-worker: Hating muslim people.
Me: Mmm?
Co-worker: Like
Co-worker: If I was American
Co-worker: Maybe I would be able to understand the hate?
Co-worker: Hahaha
Co-worker: Really though
Co-worker: So much has come up regarding this
Me: Well, the reality is....
Me: Trump will probably not win. I hope.
Co-worker: Right
Co-worker: That would be terrible hahah
Me: Hahah
Me: The collapse of America
Me: :(

That was back in January. I blew it off because, well, I didn’t expect Trump to get much further in the race. Fast forward to March and a few more Trump-related conversations have occurred over lunch and coffee since January. A few weeks ago, not far from our company building, I sat down for lunch with my manager and a fellow intern at a Korean restaurant. Sitting there on the ground with our legs crossed, my manager leaned over and jokingly asked me in Korean, “Are you going to protest?” It took me a split second to get what she was referring to. I looked back at her and humorously said, “Protest? If Trump wins, I’ll just move to Canada.” She laughed for a few seconds and then in a more serious tone she replied, “Korea will also be in big trouble if Trump becomes president.” The intern to my right slowly nodded in agreement.

A Pressing Issue Among All Millennials 

Recently a chat over coffee with some of my managers has been ringing in my head. It wasn’t even 10 minutes into the chat before the conversation found its way to the US presidential elections, and subsequently, Trump. “I thought Americans were smarter than this”, my manager sighed. I didn't want to express it at the time, but I totally agreed with her. I would have never thought that this many Americans would stand behind someone like Trump. “Keoni, you need to go back to your country and enlighten your people”, she said jokingly. I smiled and lauged a bit while slowly sipping my Americano.

I gave it some thought and I came to a simple assumption based on a principle I was exposed to through my public relations and marketing courses. There is no such thing as bad publicity. As the famous playwright Oscar Wilde once said, “The only thing worse than being talked about is not being talked about.” Trump knows how to work the media, and he does it very, very  well. Trump knows that each time he says something controversial at a rally, the publicity he gets for it will keep his name on the top of people’s minds, and he will remain relevant. According to Nielsen’s Total Audience Report, Americans aged 18 or older spend more than 11 hours a day watching TV, listening to the radio or using smartphones and other electronic devices. Guess who’s name has been dominating all this media being consumed? The media monster and master, Donald Trump. He has strategically used his outrageous statements and rallies to put himself in front of millions of Americans who are simply consuming media as they usually do. Brainwash in 3, 2…. 1.

There’s a hole in this assumption though. Sure people see Trump all over the media, but how is that correlated to more people supporting him? People have their own conscience, don’t they? Shouldn’t the negative exposure catch up to him eventually? I turn these questions to you. Do you think Trumps publicity will eventually backfire on him? Will it continue to fuel his relevancy and propel him into the oval office?