Oh In-hye: “I don’t regret wearing that revealing dress”

(Source)

Does actress Oh In-hye (오인혜) count as a pin-up grrrl?

A virtual unknown before she wore that dress at the opening ceremony of the 16th Busan International Film Festival, she is certainly not above using sex-appeal to advance her career. But of course, that is not something to celebrate in itself. Rather, it can only be considered at all empowering if the woman involved simultaneously exalts in her sex appeal (to both men and women), whether as sexual object, subject, role model, or all three. And above all, she must a) be explicit about what she’s doing (or at least not deny it), and b) not stray out of character by, say, infantilizing herself with cutesy aegyo in the first endorsement deal she lands.

By those criteria, actually very few female celebrities qualify, no matter how much they’re touted as confident, independent, and daring by the Korean media. Oh In-hye did remain a possibility though, as mentioned at the end of my November post first outlining the concept of pin-up grrrls, and as far as I know hasn’t been blessed with the opportunity to behave like a 13 year-old in a TV commercial yet.

All hinges on her own personal explanations/justifications then, which is why this recent interview of her caught my eye. However unlikely-sounding, could she also be considered a role-model?

Alas, once I started translating it, my respect for her plunged faster than her neckline. For not only does she again claim that her choice of dress was completely random, and that she expected no reaction to it whatsoever, but she’s particularly disingenuous when she claims to be worried that her image would detract from the message of her two movies in one Red Vacance, Black Wedding (붉은바캉스, 검은웨딩), as in fact both are essentially soft-porn poorly disguised as art-house cinema (see the NSFW trailer below; tellingly, downloads of the movie are extremely easy to find). Indeed, now I’m more convinced than ever that the dress was actually a deliberate and surely collaborative effort to draw attention to the movie, as first suggested to me by an audience member at a recent lecture I gave in Daegu (apologies for not remembering your name sorry!).

And on that note, apologies also for the irritating faux informal and friendly tone of the reporter, which remains in the original Korean. Unfortunately, as I lamented back in November, beggars can’t be choosers for interview sources. Especially on this topic!

(Source)

“I Don’t Regret Wearing That Revealing Dress”

Issue-maker Oh In-hye, main star of Red Vacance, Black Wedding, Dreams of becoming a “humanist actress”

Busan Focus, December 6th 2011, p. 23. Reporter: Jang Byeong-ho.

“There have been big changes since the Busan International Film Festival (BIFF). At the time things were just crazy, but now I’m quite relaxed. Things have returned to what they were like before BIFF”.

On the 5th, I met Oh In-hye at a coffee-shop in Seoul, the actress who has been in the spotlight for wearing such a striking dress at BIFF earlier in the year. I couldn’t help but be curious at how she felt about being at the center of such controversy.

“Before I went to the film festival, I thought my visiting it would just be reported as “An actress called Oh In-hye attended”, she said, but to her it was her first time, and an amazing experience. Also, while she was very hurt by malicious news reports and what netizens wrote about her, she confidently said to herself  to “have no regrets”, and that “If I am to go again to the opening ceremony of a film festival, I’ll wear a revealing dress again. But perhaps revealing just a little less though!” (laughs).

(Source)

Also, Oh In-hye is thinking about using the interest in her as an opportunity, “It’s all water under the bridge. Instead, now I have a goal of changing my revealing image. And if I have a goal, I should work on it, right?” she openly and honestly revealed, a complete contrast to the sexy demeanor she possessed when she was wearing the revealing dress [James – having a goal isn’t sexy???]. But she also said that she was worried that her revealing image would distort the message of her coming movie Red Vacance, Black Wedding, coming out on the 8th of December.

Oh In-hye has yearned to be an entertainer since she was very young, but didn’t set on an acting path until the relatively late age of 22 [James – she is 27 now]. From 2 to 3 years ago, she has worked without an agency, and firmly said that she “has no plans to join one. I want to be a humanist actress, not just an entertainer who makes issues”.

Finally, she admitted that the director Lars von Trier and the actress Penelope Cruz, Oh In-hye revealed that “increasing my acting ability by studying a lot of acting is my biggest homework!”, leaving this reporter curious about her [James – new?] honest and forthcoming persona (end).

To play Devil’s Advocate, Korean news reporters are notorious for sometimes simply making news up, let alone being very sloppy with their fact-checking. But nevertheless, Oh In-hye’s claims that she would loudly and proudly wear an almost equally-revealing dress at the next film festival are undermined by her wearing a more demure one at BIFF’s closing ceremony. On the other hand, she did wear a very revealing one just a few days after this interview, but that again casts serious doubts on her claims to be worried about “her revealing image [distorting] the message of her movie”, which came out just the day before.

In short, nothing in the interview can be taken at face-value, and frankly now I’m a little embarrassed to present it here. Sigh. Rest assured though, that from now on I’ll be a little more discerning when I hear that a female celebrity has bared all to a reporter, and – as always – would appreciate readers passing on any they find by more reliable sources (including of male celebrities!).

22 thoughts on “Oh In-hye: “I don’t regret wearing that revealing dress”

  1. I thought she showed a healthy level of self-acceptance by displaying her asymmetrical breasts in an unflattering dress that pulled them down and made them look saggy.

    • Certainly, although I beg to differ on the dress being unflattering to them. But either way, she’s not helping anyone with similar issues by her BS at claiming to be surprised at all the attention she received. By claiming that her body exposure is a non-issue, then, however farcical, her public stance is that there’s nothing to be discussed about it, which includes recognition of her healthy self-acceptance of her allegedly less than perfect breasts.

      • Let me take back that comment: it’s very very badly worded (I’m completely confused as to what I was saying myself!), and gives the wrong impression that I think a female celebrity wearing a revealing dress has to be some sort of feminist issue or statement; actually I think the exact opposite, as I explain in my reply to I’m no Picasso below (and thanks to her for helping me realize that). I’ll still leave it up for the sake of understanding her own comment though, but if I didn’t have to then I’d delete everything but for the “Certainly, although I beg to differ on the dress being unflattering to them”! :D

      • I was being catty. As you and other commenters have noted, wearing revealing clothing is unremarkable for a young actress seeking publicity to promote her career,and her insincere dismissive remarks may be par for the course. As Vanessa Williams’ musical career matured in her mid-30s, she commented in a feature story about her something to the effect that she liked not having to show her boobs to get work.

  2. You know what…. I kind of don’t feel like a woman needs to become a beacon of feminist public representation because she wants to wear a revealing dress. Why does she need to explain the dress at all, let alone to the satisfaction of multiple different perspectives? As far as I’m concerned, she can give whatever reason she wants for having worn the dress, and she can follow it up by wearing whatever else she wants, because it shouldn’t even be an issue in the first place. She shouldn’t be expected to shoulder a feminist burden just because she wanted to (for whatever reason) be a bit risque.

    I think it’s important to always try to keep the personal lives of women and the roles that society creates for them to function within pretty separate for that reason. Because she shouldn’t be expected to live her life in a certain way in order to avoid society’s box anymore than she should adjust herself to fit within it. She’s not responsible for the box. And she shouldn’t have to change the parts of her that fall within that realm because other feminists don’t like it. It’s no one else’s business.

    That having been said, a lot of her responses remind me a bit of Marilyn Monroe. Feminists make a lot of arguments against her, as well, but the way I see it, she was a very fucking intelligent woman who created a lot of really fascinating questions with the caricature of femininity she created. She knew exactly what she was doing, and I don’t blame her for it, although a lot of other women do.

    • Sorry, but I think you’re creating several strawman arguments there.

      First, I haven’t been looking for “beacon[s] of Feminist public representation”, which could mean pretty much anything really, but pin-up grrrls, which I provide a definition of. So, I’m applying just one perspective, not multiple different ones.

      Because explaining why a woman is wearing revealing clothes is contained in that definition, then I can only examine those women who have chosen to do so. So, I’m hardly judging every woman out there who wears revealing dresses. And in particular, it doesn’t mean that I’m saying every woman that wears a revealing dress should have to explain herself either. Indeed, I’d be the first to agree that telling everyone that a risque dress is a non-issue, that she’s got nothing to justify or explain, and that reporters and bloggers and so on can just fuck off is to be commended. I admit though, that that’s not very clear in my saying a pin-up grrrl “must a) be explicit about what she’s doing”, and so will change it to something like “she must a) be explicit about what she’s doing, or at least not deny it” after I finish typing this.

      Also, I admit that by not exalting “in her sex appeal (to both men and women), whether as sexual object, subject, role model, or all three”, then such a woman would not count as a pin-up grrrl by my definition, and so maybe again I need to rethink it. But on the other hand, so what if such a woman isn’t a pin-up grrrl? If I ever come across a female celebrity who insists that her risque dresses are a non-issue, and who genuinely wants less and not more attention brought to them, then I guarantee I’ll be singing her praises.* Naturally, I’d prefer it if she did go on to criticize that media attention nevertheless, and the double-standards therein, but I take your point about how a female celebrity shouldn’t be expected to shoulder a feminist burden just because of what she decides to wear.

      *Update - I forgot to mention that at the end of the summer I actually WAS in the middle of writing a post about G.Na always being annoyed at the attention being given to her large bust, and – to show that it wasn’t BS – how indeed she’d usually covered it up in music videos and photoshoots and so on (it’s also an issue I’m grappling with now in my content analysis of Korean ads, as Korea’s relative taboos against breast but not leg and butt exposure complicates determining if they’ve gotten racier or not over time). Then she up and did a 180, showing them off in a load of Juvis Diet and especially Calvin Klein commercials, and hasn’t stopped since. She seriously wasted at least 8 hours of writing and research I’d put into the post!

      Finally, even if a woman does explain herself, she can certainly give whatever reason she likes for wearing the dress too, and follow-up by wearing whatever she likes as well. But once she does decide to offer explanations, then I’m certainly allowed to have an opinion on them, to point out contradictions and inconsistencies in what she say with what she does, and accordingly I call BS on just about everything Oh In-hye said in the interview above. I think either being more honest or refusing to discuss her dress at all would have been a wiser career move for her personally, regardless of the wider feminist context and ramifications (or lack thereof).

      So, I apologize if I’ve misinterpreted you, but to me you seem to conflating judging women who wear revealing clothes in general (with all the negative connotations the word “judging” implies), with the much more precise and I think really quite positive task of finding role-models that I’m doing. And indeed, I’d agree with pretty much everything you wrote about the former!

  3. Hmm, that trailer is just too subtle for me. They needed to ban clothing of any kind to make its message a little clearer.

    But I know why the movie is so popular with people who want to do more, err, ‘research’.

  4. The whole sequence of quotes just sounds like an elaborate two-step, to placate the fussy and the trendy, and fails to please anyone. But, ‘m sure that dress will fly off the racks, and Korean men will be the ones buying it for their mistresses.

  5. She is right. There is nothing to regret what she worn to the festival. In fact I think it it is a good memory of her career. I am sure she will be given lot of offer for her next role.

  6. I think I’m way too caught up on the obvious breast implants. Anyway, I’m glad to know she hasn’t done any of the ‘egyo’ crap. That said, I do wish more Korean women embraced their sexuality. So, it’s kind of(?) a step in the right direction although she does lack some of the much needed confidence.

  7. “beacon[s] of Feminist public representation” ….beacons…hahaha (sorry that tickled me)

    I can’t help but think about how that dress reminds me of the Awesome Power of the Nipple! By this, I mean, how MUCH of the breast can be shown…but nary a nipple shall Pass (~cue the Gandolf with staff raised)

    Pretty much universal. The APN (awesome power of the nipple) sends people screaming into the streets …but apparently you can reveal every possible centimeter of flesh up-to-and-surrounding it. (she had to have been chilled, c’mon, people around her are in jackets…brrrr~)

    hrmmm…back to point…she clearly wanted to startle and shock. For reals. You don’t leave the house (male or female) without a shirt on…and expect that NO ONE will take notice. Toss in the fact that it’s a major media event..with , ya know….cameras every 2 feet. P’shah. (publicity stunt I call thee OUT!)

    I’m far more concerned with the young women of Korea having no pants. Is there a shortage (see what I did there?) or something? I’m stunned that the baring of a shoulder, or cleavage, weighs in as more erotic/publicly inappropriate than revealing your baby-maker on the subway. ಠ_ಠ ◄—- (side eye)

  8. Oh, but she did attempt an Aegyo – at least, an interview version of it, claiming to another journalist that she was young, inexperienced and unfamiliar with the red carpet fashion rules and that the dress selection was not her personal choice, but rather what a store loaned her. Also managed to try to throw Baek Ji-Young under the bus by claiming Ji-Young wore something similar years ago. According to the movie trailer, she’s got plenty of, ahem, experience….
    Look, you wanna jump-start your career a la Liz Hurley (remember that Versace pin dress?) – knock yourself out, just don’t hold everyone for idiots.

  9. I have been reading your website for a while now and while I agree with many of the points you make, this is one I don’t agree with. When did people become one dimensional? Cant someone who is sexy, be also cute? Cant someone who is older be cute as well? Saying you are disappointed because they chose a cute CF is unfair.

    CFs are jobs they do. If an actress did a role playing a killer, would her personality change? No, it wouldn’t because it’s a job, a role she is playing, not real life.

    In Korea especially where they don’t get paid that well, CFs fees are one of their biggest paychecks since they get a fair percentage compare to other works. Do you honestly think they would turn it down just because it didn’t go with the personality they show to the public?

    I just truly don’t get why do you insist on putting them down just for this and it’s actually not the first time you judge a celebrity in Korea for their choice on CFs, you’ve done it many times before.

    I don’t know what I’m asking, I guess I’m just confuse on your views toward this.

    • Hey, I’ve never claimed anyone can’t be cute and sexy. In particular, I’ve often said that Lee Hyori has a real gift for exploiting both, yet without ever overdoing either (and at 31, she’s pretty old by Korean media standards too). But even if – for the sake of argument – being able to be both sexy and cute wasn’t her trademark though, she was still Korea’s number one sex symbol for much of the 2000s, so it would take more than a few cutesy CFs to dent that enduring reputation.

      In contrast, no matter how regularly most young Korean female celebrities are “touted as confident, independent, and daring by the Korean media” like I say, really there’s precious little evidence for that. Wearing less and less clothes and/or doing risque dances etc. these days is all fine and dandy of course, but which of those celebrities don’t always completely BS about what they’re doing and/or why, like Oh In-hye? Which don’t consider it an issue at all, and so refuse to discuss it and genuinely discourage media attention about it (which like I’m no Picasso made me realize, is an equally valid alternative)? And regardless of which of those two options they take, which celebrities refuse to infantilize themselves in CFs and so on at the same time they’re supposed to be all mature and sexy?

      In short, which are the pin-up grrrls, like I asked back in November? The aim of this post was to see if Oh In-hye was one, and I found her wanting. Moreover, as I type this, I’m suddenly reminded of why I didn’t think Lee-Hyori really was either, despite what I said about her in the first paragraph above – as far as I know, she’s never been forthright about her unique skills (in particular, not acknowledged all the innuendo and double-entendres her ads and CFs used to be full of), or alternatively refused to talk about things like her revealing costumes or alleged breast implants either, instead being happy to discuss them but then just spouting the usual inanities (but again, only as far as I know – I’d be very happy to be proved wrong).

      So, the search for pin-up grrrls continues. And no: I don’t think it’s unfair at all to be disappointed by cutesy CFs. Granted, a girl’s got to work, but I’m looking for women – nay, people – who challenge the dominant narrative of female role models, body-image, and sexuality in the Korean media, and so being happy to do an aegyo-fest at the drop of a hat doesn’t exactly qualify. Indeed, all the celebrities I’ve judged on the blog I’ve done so because they’re done Koreans a positive disservice by perpetuating that narrative, and so I challenge you to tell me of one I did so unfairly.

      Finally, I should point out that many Korean celebrities – almost all, if we’re talking about boy-band and girl-group members – actually have little choice about what CFs they do, but rather are effectively forced to do so by their management companies, which I think the vast majority of the endorsement fees etc. go to. (I’ll have to check on that, but either way it’s irrelevant if they can’t refuse to participate). So that does exonerate them to a large extent, and I admit that I probably haven’t always been as clear about placing the blame on the management companies rather than the celebrities as I should have. But it also just further proves my point that there’s little to suggest that young female celebrities are as confident and grrrly etc. as claimed, and which the cutesy CFs further detract from.

  10. I’m in middle of my ‘being shallow time’ and will therefore simply comment that i think She ( and her boobs) looked fine in that outfit. Which was still poorly chosen though!

    But then again, I see more spicy ‘things’ at my local sauna.

    She needed to stand up to her decision to wear the dress. And not downplaying it.

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