Korean Sociological Image #5: Kiwis and Blood Types

May I prestn New Zealand company Zespri International, with a marketing campaign for kiwifruit based on Koreans’ belief that one’s bloodtype can determine one’s personality:

Here’s what the voiceover says in each, with my translations, and with links to screenshots of each:

A형 세심하고 깔끔하다. 주위의 시선을 의식하며 자신의 건강을 위해 빈틈없이…..아이?…… 먹어? 떨어진거?

현명한 선택: 제스프리 골드키위

People with blood type A are careful, meticulous and neat. They always consider what others think of them, so they are concerned for their health…what’s this? An unguarded moment? Eating something that’s just dropped on the floor? The smart choice: Zespri gold kiwis.

B형 자유롭고 충동적이다. 자신의 S라인을 위해 이렇듯.. 도발적이다. 오우~~

현명한 선택: 제스프리 골드키위

People with blood type B are natural and impulsive. They do this for the sake of their S-lines…Oh, how suggestive~~

AB형  독특하고 신비롭다 (내가 예쁘게 먹어줄게). 모든 사물과 교감을 시도하며 예뻐지기 위해서…..왜그러냐?

현명한 선택: 제스프리 골드키위

People with blood type AB are smart and mysterious (Child: I will eat you prettily). They want to connect with things in many different ways, and in order to be pretty…Hey! What are you doing?

O형  솔직하고 화끈하다. 순간 순간의 감정에 충실하며.. (우..) 몸에 좋은거라면 다.. (음..)….너 지금 몇개째야?

현명한 선택: 제스프리 골드키위

People with blood type O are honest and passionate. When they feel something, they want to enjoy every moment of that feeling…and if it’s good for their bodies too…Hey! How many are you eating?

Korean Zespri Kiwifruit AdvertisementOf course, in themselves these commercials are just harmless fun, and no different to ones based on, say, one’s Western astrological or Chinese zodiac sign (can you tell what blood type I am?). But they belie how seriously the links between blood type and personality are in fact taken by many Koreans. To wit:

- Virtually everyone knows what type they are.

- Which is partially because mention of them is required on resumes (which are more like application forms than in the Western sense of the word: see here).

- Type-B men (but not women) are discriminated against to the extent that many women flat-out refuse to date them.

- Hence celebrities fake their blood-types in their public profiles, just like their heights or weights.

    And all that is despite the fad becoming unfashionable as unscientific in most places by the 1930s (with the exception of, well, Nazi Germany), as there is no actual evidence that blood type is linked to personality whatsoever (although here’s a rare dissenting view on that). Lest I sound like I’m criticizing Korea unfairly though, the fad also seems popular in Japan (see here and here),  although I couldn’t personally say if it is subscribed to as earnestly by Japanese people as it is by Koreans (or not). Can anyone fill me in?

    (On a side-note, did anyone notice the mention of kiwis being good for your S-line too? I suppose it’s de rigeur for advertising food these days. But I wonder if Zespri is targeting Korean women in particular? I’m not going to claim that just based on those commercials above and advertisement like this from last year above (source), but I suspect that it might be)

    p.s. I’m “A” by the way.

    (For all posts in the “Korean Sociological Image” series, see here)

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    19 thoughts on “Korean Sociological Image #5: Kiwis and Blood Types

    1. Yes, the blood type thing is huge in Japan, and popular in Taiwan too, and I had always assumed it got its start in Asia in Japan.

      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Blood_types_in_Japanese_culture

      I think it has more of an effect on daily life than astrology does in 21st-century North America, Europe, etc. (But using either to make decisions about real life makes me really furious–and I say that as someone who has type A blood and stands to benefit from the superstition!)

    2. I was chatting once with a korean guy and he couldn’t believe me that I have absolutely no idea what blood type I am and neither does my mom. I think this was a real cultural shock for both of us.
      There is even a movie discriminating type B. “My boyfriend is type B” or something like that…but refusing to date someone is just too much.

    3. Looks like the photo editor couldn’t figure out how to extend the left leg, too. It’s not an optical illusion. I actually measured with a ruler, taking into account the bend of the left leg.

      • I think it has more of an effect on daily life than astrology does in 21st-century North America, Europe, etc.

        Lily–thanks for reminding me: I wanted to say pretty much the same myself, but forgot. I’ve updated the text accordingly.

        Yue–I can relate, and only happen to know my own myself because of a minor operation when I was a child. When my wife comes home, I’ll ask her at what age Koreans tend to be tested.

        Sonagi–Surprised I missed that! It’s funny how I didn’t really notice it beforehand, but now that I know that it’s there then I can’t stop looking at it.

        If you haven’t seen it already, you’ll probably be interested in this NYT article on a growing anti-photoshopping movement.

    4. It seems strange to me, even worries me, that Korea doesn’t yet seem to have any common notion that the images of women especially that they see do not really resemble the original model in most cases. Certainly all this stupid photoshopping of photos goes on in other countries, and even if it isn’t showing any sign of stopping, people do seem to be aware that it’s what happens, so they aren’t so easily fooled when they see the photos. But Koreans still seem to accept drastically altered images as that person’s genuine appearance, and I think it does strange things to what goes on inside their head. For such a techno-savvy nation, I wonder why this isn’t a universally known – and criticised – phenomenon.

      • Seamus–I’m not necessarily disagreeing – hell, I’ve complained about Korean’s (relative) lack of critical thinking things on numerous occasions – but let me play devil’s advocate for a moment: on what basis do you say that Koreans don’t seem to realize that many images of models are Photoshopped?

    5. Genuinely from asking Korean friends about them. I personally don’t appreciate images photoshopped to the extent that they are – not just in Korea. I also don’t like the way that my Korean girlfriend and other Korean female friends comment admiringly on photos that are clearly altered – just one example, real skin cannot glow. You’ve blogged on this subject well before, so you know as well as anyone that people aspire to look like what they see in advertisments. This frustrates me when what is portrayed in advertisments isn’t real and therefore unattainable, because that doesn’t stop people trying to attain it.

      I’m sure there has been something made about it in the Korean media, but just from personal experience people don’t seem to be as aware of it, or at least they ignore the fact that what they view is created on a computer. I think the best example was one you’ve used somewhere on your blog, the photo that sparked the brief use of the term ‘x-line’ with the girl with unnaturally long arms and legs. You also found (if I recall correctly) an untouched photo of the same woman which proved how much it had been altered. The fact that the altered photo sparked a new definition of a woman’s body shows that the fact that it was an inaccurate representation didn’t affect many people. This is the reason behind my madness anyway…

    6. If you need evidence that young Koreans underestimate the use of photo editing and cosmetic surgery, look no further than the comment threads at Pop Seoul. I suspect Western teens and young adults are no savvier than their Korean peers.

      • No need to apologize Seamus, and I don’t really need any (more) evidence that young Koreans (or hell, old Koreans) aren’t aware of or underestimate the amount of photoshopping in everyday images and so on Sonagi! :) Probably, I was just projecting my own insecurities about writing about and for Koreans while being stuck in my apartment all day…being unemployed and looking after my kids, I don’t get out and see things and ask people for myself much these days!

        Update: That clearly Photoshopped image you mention is the fifth one in this post by the way, about halfway down.

    7. The subject in our class tomorrow is relating to personalities and blood types. I will provide a translation when I can.

    8. In my company (a major accounting firm) a significant number of junior staff are A type. I guess that fits in with A-types supposedly being detail-oriented. However, the majority of partners are B type. This seems to fit in with b-types being sociable and good at sales and A-types being shy and presumably not so good at networking.*

      *The above comment is the result of observations made at numerous 회식 and does not constitute empirical evidence gained during the course of scientific study. The writer assumes no liability for damages caused by use of this comment.

      • Like asking one’s age and so on, I’ve found that Koreans asking what bloodtype you are is just part of standard chit-chat when first meeting someone, especially if you’re of similar age. So aksing doesn’t really mean anything in itself.

        But he will probably be very surprised when you answer that you don’t know: all Koreans get tested in (I think) elementary school, and have no reason to think that things are different anywhere else!

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