Remember when the Korean Defense Ministry said it was considering playing girl-groups’ music videos on giant TV screens along the DMZ? The rationale, according to the official that thought of it, was that “the revealing outfits worn by the performers and their provocative dances could have a considerable impact on North Korean soldiers”.
Alas, nothing came of the idea. But the irony was palpable: in the 1970s, such revealing outfits were deemed subversive by the military government, with ruler-bearing policemen stopping women on the street to measure the length of their skirts (they would also cut men’s hair if it was too long).
This difference is humorously illustrated in Samsung’s 2007 commercial for the Anycall Miniskirt (애니콜 미니스커트), with Jun Ji-hyun (전지현):
It’s curious that it was set somewhere which never actually had such “fashion-police”, when there’s a wealth of related video and imagery from Korea that could have been used instead (just look under “미니스커트 다속” for instance, literally “miniskirt control/supervision/clampdown”, but probably that should just be chalked up to creative license. As Koreans have indeed regularly poked fun at their old, ridiculous laws on miniskirt length, not least because they weren’t removed from the books until as recently as 2006!
More ominously though, the commercial can easily read as an advertiser doing some subtle fashion-policing of its own, through informing the Korean public of the new de facto rules. And it ends with yet another example of a phone literally embodying a woman too.
Both are also evident in LG’s recent advertisement for LTE, a type of 4G wireless service:
On the left, the copy reads “If it’s only the shape/appearance of LTE, then it isn’t available everywhere”, while on the right it reads “If it’s really LTE, then it’s available in every city”. The headline in the middle reads “But it’s different”, and finally the copy at the bottom reads “The one and only LTE, in touch in every city nationwide. Automatic roaming in 220 countries worldwide”.
Personally, I think the execution is flawed — if the woman on the left is supposed to only have the shape and/or appearance of the real LTE (confusedly, “모양” means both), then shouldn’t both women actually look and be clothed exactly the same, with some indication that they’re different for some other reason (say, by having the women on the left scowling)?
Either way, the advertisement’s other message is that the woman on the right, with high-heels, a V-line face, impossibly-long (and uneven!) photoshopped legs, and a dress that only just covers her underwear, is quite literally the modern standard that all agasshis (young women) should adhere to. Jun Ji-hyun’s bobbies would be proud.
(For more posts in the “Korean Sociological Image” series, see here)