Korean super rich join selfie trend

Selfies are trending across the world. While people have been shopping their own photos, long the access to smartphones has now made it easier for anyone to take a selfie and share it online.

For the superrich, their selfies take on more meaning than a simple snap. Their fame causes their selfies to go viral much faster, and contain more narrative power than a lengthy speech.

Billionaire entrepreneurs worldwide have used selfies to promote their products. Apple and Xiaomi's CEOs both advertised their new phones by taking selfies, and Google cofounder Sergey Brin took one using Google Glass, effectively advertising its features.

They have also been used to display confidence, as both Alibaba Group founder Jack Mao and Weibo founder Charles Chao took selfies when their companies went public, signifying their status.

While many superrich overseas have already shared their selfies, the "selfie culture" among their Korean counterparts is surprisingly constricted, despite the country's tech-savvy reputation.

However, there are exceptions, and some Korean superrich stand out in their effective use of selfies as a way to communicate with the public.

Park Yong-maan, chairman of Doosan Group, is the "chairman of selfies," known for photographing himself frequently. One of his most notable selfies was taken at the Doosan Bears playoff in 2013, his smartphone expertly raised at an 80-degree angle to make himself look more flattering.

Park is also active on Twitter and has garnered interest among the younger generation by sharing his "slice of life" as a corporation chairman.

The biggest attraction to Park's selfies is his sense of humour. In 2010, he took a selfie during a business meeting, and tweeted, "The most terrifying secret selfie I've taken to date!"

A selfie from 2013 shows him wearing a safety hat in front of a Doosan power plant under construction. He uploaded his photo on Twitter with the words, "This is kind of expensive, but you should have one at your place. Four trillion won, I won't go lower than that," making a humorous comparison of his business development costs and marketplace haggling.

It served as an effective publicizing tool to show off Doosan Group's electricity and green construction business in a friendly and subtle manner.

Hyundai Card CEO Chung Tae-young, also known as Ted Chung, is another superrich who uses selfies to heighten his company's brand value.

A notable example is from 2014, when he set up his Facebook profile picture to that of a selfie he took on a holiday. In the photo, Chung was dressed casually in sunglasses, a polo shirt and shorts, but donning brand-name headphones.

He also took a selfie with Spanish artist Javier Mariscal while walking around the traditional Gwangjang Market when Javier visited Korea in 2013.

Besides showing his daily life, Chung's selfies also serve as an effective marketing tool for his credit card company. His selfies, which combine a free-spirited attitude with a unique yet high-class taste, titillate the consumption desires of high-income youth.

As the head of a distribution company, Shinsegae Group vice chairman Chung Yong-jin has always been interested in communicating with the younger consumers, and regularly gives humanities lectures to college students.

In addition, Chung used to be active on Twitter and used to frequently upload his selfies, though he has since deleted his account.

He had posted a selfie he took with Park Yong-maan in 2010, and even interacted with others, humorously replying with an emoticon to a cheeky comment that he looked like a war refugee.

Park Seo-won, chief creative officer of ad agency Oricom and heir to Doosan Group, is a young superrich familiar with the digital landscape. Just like his father, Park Yong-maan, the younger Park frequently uploads selfies on Twitter and Instagram.

Park's selfies are not too different from those typical youngsters share with their friends.

One of Park's Instagram selfies show him in an orange shirt and baggy pants with a doll strapped to his waist, asking if his outfit is "cute." He also regularly posts selfies of his daily life and goings-on at his company.

Superrich selfies have a significant meaning. It warms up a billionaires' image, which is usually defined in cold, hard numbers signifying how much money they have, and makes them approachable.

In turn, the public also responds favourably toward billionaires willing to relax in front of the camera and may become potential customers.

Nonetheless, corporate billionaires taking selfies in Korea is not as widespread as it is abroad.