“Korea is a Conservative Country”

han-ji-hye-in-her-underwearNot to be overanalysed, but it turns out that my last post on Han Ji-hye (한지혜) may prove to have been quite prescient on my part(!), for her commercials for the Korean clothing company Bang Bang (뱅뱅) with So Ji-sub (소지섭) have taken a decidedly raunchy turn recently. Yes indeed, what would one expect from a company with a name like that, but then Korea is rife with accidentally lewd English company names and phrases of which the originators are blissfully unaware, and in fact there’d never been so much as a single reference to the double-entendre in any of Bang Bang’s commercials and advertisements up until now, and not even in the first in this new series (0-0:14 below) from last month either. Moreover, while of course I’ve seen plenty of Korean commercials with actresses and models just so happening to fall into awkward sexual poses (most notably this classic one with Lee Hyori), and it’s nigh impossible to avoid the numerous lingerie infomercials on cable here, this second commercial in the video below (from 0:15) is definitely the first time on Korean television at least that I’ve seen anyone lounging around in their panties for the sake of selling jeans, let alone such a well-known actress:

Why? Maybe this is exhibit A in the predicted shift to sexier and/or more shocking advertisements as companies get increasingly desperate during the recession? Maybe just coincidence? Either way, So Ji-sub and the youthful Han Ji-hye look quite unlike a married couple, who have generally learned to have more pride than to wear matching “couple clothes,” and so regardless of whether or not the commercial is merely a reflection of (or a catalyst for) wider public acceptance of cohabiting couples, I heartily approve of the general…er…thrust of Bang Bang’s new advertising campaign.

For anyone further interested in why Koreans generally live with their parents until marriage, see my most recent post (of many) on the subject here, and a brief follow-up here.

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7 thoughts on ““Korea is a Conservative Country”

  1. Do you feel as I do – both regretful that Korea is moving away from conservative times, yet excited about seeing more ‘flesh and suggestive imagery’ or something along those lines?

    • Not really. There are of course many things about Korean society that bear preserving as it develops, including (off the top of my head) its safe streets, low crime rates and students’ respect for teachers (although it’s already too late for the latter!), but on the whole I see a society refusing to admit its own problems and contraditions, particularly in the areas of gender relations and sexuality that I focus on in the blog.

      Having said that, while there are definitely positives in a liberal sense to seeing more flesh and suggestive imagery anywhere – nude imagery had a great role to play in undermining the authority of censors in the Franco regime of Spain in the 1970s for instance – and I’m not going to pretend for a moment that I don’t like seeing attractive Korean actresses in their underwear either, in a feminist sense this increased liberalism is very lop-sided, a point which I should have mentioned in the post. Of course males are more visual creatures than women and so there will always be more suggestive imagery of women in the world, and there’s nothing sexist about this commercial per se either, but still, if we only ever see Han ji-hye in her underwear in these Bang Bang commericals and not ever So Ji-sub topless or in his (his undershirt in the first doesn’t count) then I can see why women might justifiably complain, and I don’t mean that in a facetious sense because of unfairness and/or feeling deprived. And come to think of it, that would be much more radical too: recall that it wasn’t really until 2002(!) that it became publically acceptable for Korean women to commoditize and wax lyrical over men’s bodies like men do over women’s.

  2. Pingback: Pornography and Prostitution « Lost Seouls

  3. i agree wih cathy. korea and most asian countries are so fascinated with how the western media focuses on sex all the time. it is LUST that they show all the time..now look how their society disintegrates

    • Cathy, Il-sung–As this post and…hell, this entire blog makes abundantly clear, Korea is not a conservative country, nor is its media any less focused on sex than its Western counterparts. I’ll grant that it’s more explicit in Western countries though, and all the better I say: among many other things, it doesn’t mean that it promotes unrealistic virginal images of women to the extent that most women are too scared to insist on their partners using condoms, lest he think that she is a slut like all those Westerners.

  4. I think korean should remain conservative,too. the country should keep on their traditions and not like many western countries who become too modern :S

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