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Koh Buck Song
Born1963 (age 60–61)
Chinese name
Traditional Chinese
Simplified Chinese许木松
Hanyu PinyinXǔ Mùsōng
Teochew Peng'imKou2 Bhag8-song5

Koh Buck Song ( Chinese: 许木松; born 1963) is a Singaporean writer, poet, and country brand adviser. [1] He is the author and editor of more than 40 books, including nine books of poetry and haiga art. [2] He works as a writer, editor and consultant in branding, communications strategy and corporate social responsibility in Singapore. He has held several exhibitions [3] as a Singaporean pioneer of haiga art, developed from a 16th-century Japanese art form combining ink sketches with haiku poems.

In 2023, his book Brand Singapore: Nation Branding in a World Disrupted by Covid-19 (2021) was longlisted by the Singapore University of Social Sciences for the Alan Chan Spirit of Singapore Book Prize, [4] while his book One United People: Essays from the People Sector on Singapore's Journey of Racial Harmony (2022) was shortlisted for best non-fiction by the Singapore Book Publishers Association. [5]

Journalism career

Koh was with The Straits Times from 1988 to 1999, where he was literary editor, political supervisor and chief Parliament commentator, arts and features supervisor, and assistant editor of Sunday Review, a weekly world affairs section. His regular personal opinion column, Monday with Koh Buck Song, ran for almost a decade. [6]

From 2003 to 2004, he was a contributing columnist on current affairs based in the USA for the Singapore newspaper Today. [7] From 2004 to 2005, he was a regular columnist on leadership for The Straits Times.

Literary career

Koh has edited several literary anthologies, and was the English section Editor, and then General Editor, of the multilingual literary and arts journal Singa in the 1990s. [8]

In 1992, he was poet-in-residence at the Scottish Poetry Library in Edinburgh under the Singapore-Scotland Cultural Exchange programme. [9] He has also represented Singapore at literary conferences including at Cambridge University (UK) and Manila, and in poetry readings at Harvard University and Massachusetts Institute of Technology in the USA.

As a haiga artist with several exhibitions in Singapore and Laos, his art builds on earlier work exploring the synergy between poetry and painting, especially in collaborations with the abstract artist Thomas Yeo [10] and the watercolourist Ong Kim Seng. [11] He was the National Gallery Singapore's poet-in-residence 2021-22, [12] the Gallery's third after Edwin Thumboo and Madeleine Lee, with poems and haiga artworks from his residency published by the Gallery in the book the world anew. [13]

Country branding career

As a country brand adviser, Koh has spoken extensively on brand Singapore overseas, including as keynote speaker at a City Nation Place global conference in London, UK; [14] at the Royal Institute for Governance and Strategic Studies in Phuentsholing, Bhutan; [15] at a Pacific Economic Cooperation Council seminar in Tahiti; [16] at the Japan Foundation in Tokyo as a cultural leader of Singapore; [17] and the Blavatnik School of Government at Oxford University, UK. [18]

He was on the Marketing Advisory Panel for Singapore's country brand, "Passion Made Possible". [19] In the 2000s, he was head of global media relations and strategic planning at the Singapore Economic Development Board. [20] As a brand consultant, his projects include the global launches of Gardens by the Bay, National Gallery Singapore, and Fusionopolis. [21]

He wrote the first book on Singapore's country brand, Brand Singapore (2011, translated into Chinese and published in China in 2012, with a third edition in 2021). [22] [23] Another of his books that has a place branding theme is Around The World In 68 Days: Observations Of Life From A Journey Across 13 Countries (2021). [24] [25]

At the Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy, he is on the Executive Education teaching faculty for nation branding, having previously been an adjunct associate professor of leadership. [26]

Public service

His public service has included being Deputy Chairman of the Censorship Review Committee 2009–10, [27] and also a member of the Censorship Review Committees of 1991–92 and 2002–03, the only person to have served on all three panels. [28]

Selected works

  • Koh, Buck Song (1992). A brief history of Toa Payoh and other poems. Singapore: Imperial Pub. House. ISBN  981-00-3426-1. OCLC  29271297.
  • Koh, Buck Song (text and poetry editor, with introduction, 1993). Singapore: Places, Poems, Paintings. ISBN  981-00-4559-X.
  • Koh, Buck Song (1994), Thumboo, Edwin Nadason (1933– ), in Hamilton, Ian, ed., The Oxford Companion to Twentieth-century Poetry in English, Oxford University Press. ISBN  978-0-19-866147-4.
  • Koh, Buck Song (editor, with Ban, Kah Choon et al., 1995). Voices 4 – Readings By Singapore Writers. National University of Singapore. ISBN  981-00-4745-2.
  • Koh, Buck Song (2000). Toa Payoh: Our Kind Of Neighbourhood. Housing and Development Board, Singapore. ISBN  981-232-124-1.
  • Koh, Buck Song (2001). The Worth Of Wonder. ISBN  981-232-180-2.
  • Koh, Buck Song (editor, 2002). Heart Work: Stories Of How EDB Steered The Singapore Economy From 1961 Into The 21st Century. ISBN  981-04-6906-3.
  • Koh, Buck Song (editor, with Bhatia, Umej, 2002). From Boys To Men: A Literary Anthology Of National Service In Singapore. ISBN  981-3065-67-2.
  • Koh, Buck Song (2003). The Ocean Of Ambition. ISBN  981-248-020-X.
  • Koh, Buck Song (2005). How Not To Make Money: Inside Stories From Singapore's Commercial Affairs Department. ISBN  981-05-4384-0.
  • Koh, Buck Song (2008). Heartlands: Home And Nation In The Art Of Ong Kim Seng. ISBN  978-981-08-1618-6.
  • Koh, Buck Song (editor, 2011). Heart Work 2: EDB And Partners: New Frontiers For The Singapore Economy. ISBN  978-981-4342-01-8.
  • Koh, Buck Song (2011). Living With The End In Mind: A Study Of How To Increase The Quality Of Death In Singapore – Perspectives Of 30 Leaders, Lien Foundation.
  • Koh, Buck Song (2011). Brand Singapore: How Nation Branding Built Asia's Leading Global City. ISBN  978-981-4328-15-9.
  • Koh, Buck Song (2012). Perpetual Spring: Singapore's Gardens By The Bay. ISBN  978-981-4398-18-3 (hardcover). ISBN  978-981-2618-47-4 (paperback).
  • Koh, Buck Song (2014). Learning For Life: Singapore’s Investment In Lifelong Learning Since The 1950s. ISBN  978-981-09-1776-0.
  • Koh, Buck Song (2016). Our Guardians: Keeping Singapore Safe And Secure Since The 1950s. ISBN  978-981-46-4242-2.
  • Koh, Buck Song (second edition, 2017). Brand Singapore: Nation Branding After Lee Kuan Yew, In A Divisive World. ISBN  978-981-4779-24-1.
  • Koh, Buck Song (editor, 2018). Making Cities Liveable: Insights From 10 Years Of Lectures At The Centre for Liveable Cities. ISBN  978-981-1176-39-5.
  • Koh, Buck Song (third edition, 2021). Brand Singapore: Nation Branding In A World Disrupted by Covid-19. ISBN  978-981-4928-38-0
  • Koh, Buck Song (2021). Around The World In 68 Days: Observations Of Life From A Journey Across 13 Countries. ISBN  978-9-814-88223-1
  • Koh, Buck Song (editor, 2022). "One United People": Essays From The People Sector On Singapore's Journey Of Racial Harmony. ISBN  978-981-5009-62-0
  • Koh, Buck Song (2023). The world anew : poetry and haiga inspired by art in pandemic times. National Gallery Singapore. Singapore. ISBN  978-981-18-6245-8. OCLC  1354374665.{{ cite book}}: CS1 maint: location missing publisher ( link)

Selected works in anthologies & other books

  • Sionil Jose, Francisco (1991). New Voices In Southeast Asia. Solidarity, Manila, Philippines.
  • Singh, Kirpal (editor, et al. 2000). Rhythms: A Singaporean Millennial Anthology Of Poetry. National Arts Council, Singapore. ISBN  9971-88-763-0.
  • ASEAN Committee on Culture and Information (2000). Modern Literature of ASEAN.
  • Edwin Thumboo & Yeow, Kai Chai (editors, 2009). Reflecting On The Merlion: An Anthology Of Poems. National Arts Council, Singapore. ISBN  978-981-08-4300-7.
  • Poon, Angelia; Holden, Philip & Lim, Shirley Geok-lin (editors, 2009). Writing Singapore: An Historical Anthology Of Singapore Literature. National University of Singapore Press, Singapore. ISBN  978-9971-69-486-9. ISBN  978-9971-69-458-6.
  • Gwee Li Sui, (editor, 2016). Written Country: The History of Singapore through Literature. ISBN  978-981-4189-66-8.
  • Essay: "Tommy Koh on the Censorship Review Committee 1991-92", in Yeo, Lay Hwee et al (editors, 2018). Tommy Koh: Serving Singapore And The World. ISBN  978-981-3222-38-0
  • Essay: "The English language in Singapore: Lens and Launchpad to the World", in Tommy Koh & Wightman, Scott (editors, 2019). 200 Years Of Singapore And The United Kingdom. ISBN  978-981-4827-17-1
  • Essay: "America - The Top 'Soft Superpower'", in Tommy Koh & Singh, Daljit (editors, 2021). America: A Singapore Perspective. ISBN  978-981-4827-34-8

Selected haiga art exhibitions & talks

  • "Six Views Of Japan And Singapore". Super Japan Festival of Japanese Arts. The Esplanade – Theatres on the Bay. May 2016.
  • "Refleksi: A Pantun Art Exhibition (using the Malay poetic form pantun). National Poetry Festival. LASALLE College of the Arts. August 2016.
  • "Between Japan And Singapore: Haiga And Its Modern Legacy". Singapore Writers Festival. The Arts House at the Old Parliament. November 2016.
  • "ASEAN@50 Haiga: Vientiane 2017". ASEAN Insurance Council. Vientiane, Laos. November 2017.


  1. ^ Toh, Hsien Min (January 2003). "Wilfred Owen meets Hokkien peng: Koh Buck Song does national service". Quarterly Literary Review Singapore. 2 (2). Retrieved 1 November 2020.
  2. ^ See, for example, review of "A Brief History Of Toa Payoh And Other Poems". Ikin, Van, Westerly vol 43, no.4. University of Western Australia, Australia. 1998.
  3. ^ See media reports including "Blending art and poetry". Mohamad Salleh, Nur Asyiqin. The Straits Times. 21 May 2016. "10 Japanese haiga to celebrate Asean's 50th". Yusof, Helmi. The Business Times. 5 August 2017. Tani, Mayuko. Nikkei Marketing Journal, Japan. 6 June 2016.
  4. ^ Singapore University of Social Sciences - Alan Chan Spirit of Singapore Book Prize:
  5. ^ Singapore Book Publishers Association Awards 2023:
  6. ^ See, for example:
  7. ^ See, for example, the column "The trick that Singapore missed". Today. 20 Aug 2003, cited in Soft Power: The Means To Success In World Politics. Nye Jr, Joseph S. Public Affairs. USA. 2004.
  8. ^ "New Singa editor". The Straits Times. 3 January 1990.
  9. ^ "Eastern promise is sheer poetry". The Herald, Scotland. 8 October 1992.
  10. ^ "Singapore in poetry, prose and art". Chua, Mui Hoong. The Straits Times. 24 July 1993.
  11. ^ "The changing face of home". Tan, Clarissa. The Business Times. 17 October 2008.
  12. ^ Poem: "shoring Singapore" inspired by Light to Night Festival 2022, Perspectives magazine, National Gallery Singapore, 22 February 2022
  13. ^ Hoo, Shawn (18 March 2023). "See National Gallery's art anew through poet Koh Buck Song's eyes | The Straits Times". The Straits Times.
  14. ^ "Brand Singapore moves into a new era". The Business Times. 9 November 2017.
  15. ^ "How can Bhutan brand itself internationally? Singapore expert gives take on nation branding", Yangden, Kinley, Daily Bhutan, Bhutan. 11 April 2019.
  16. ^ "Tourism needs more cultural immersion". The Business Times. 1 December 2017.
  17. ^ Japan Foundation Asia Center, November 2020
  18. ^ "The place of country branding in public policy: a case study of Singapore". Oxford University, UK. January 2018.
  19. ^ For op-ed pieces on brand Singapore, see, for example:
  20. ^ See, for example, the edited book Heart Work:
  21. ^ See, for example, "Taking back the waterfront". Kolesnikov-Jessop, Sonia. Newsweek. 1 Jan 2006:
  22. ^ "The Singapore exception". Long, Simon. The Economist, UK. 18 July 2015.
  23. ^ "Brand Singapore: How businesses can align with their country's branding in a Covid-19-plagued world". Asian Management Insights. Singapore Management University. May 2021.
  24. ^ "Reset travel and life". Lee, Siew Hua, The Straits Times. 20 July 2021.
  25. ^ "Panama - the Singapore of Central America?". Pérez Sánchez, Yelina. The Panama Star, Panama. 26 July 2021.
  26. ^ At the Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy:
  27. ^ Media Development Authority website: Archived 29 January 2013 at the Wayback Machine
  28. ^ "When liberal desires meet conservative fears", Long, Susan, The Straits Times. 25 September 1999.

Further reading