Young Korean women — not men — are the only demographic in the OECD that are getting more underweight than obese.
Call me making a mountain out of a molehill, but diet-drink companies being allowed to donate their product to teens, out of supposed concerns for their heath? And plastering their classrooms with ads of heavily photoshopped women in the process? Those may just have something to do with that:
청정원 홍초가 수험생 여러분을 응원합니다 / Chung Jung Won’s HongCho Cheers For Students Taking University Entrance Exams
by Kim Jong-hoon (김종훈), Asia Today, November 4 2012
대상은 자사의 브랜드인 ‘청정원’ 홍초가 수능시험을 앞둔 고3 수험생을 응원하기 위해 오는 7일까지 서울시내 20여개 학교를 찾아 다니며 홍초 2만여개를 무료로 나눠줄 계획이라고 4일 밝혔다.
On Sunday, Daesang’s brand Chung Jung Won [English website here] announced that to support 3rd year high school students about to take their university entrance exams, they would visit 20 high schools in Seoul before the 8th (the day of the exams) and donate 20,000 bottles of HongCho to students (source, right).
청정원측은 오랜 시험준비로 지친 수험생들이 좋은 컨디션으로 시험을 볼 수 있도록 응원하기 위한 마음으로 기획 된 행사라고 설명했다. 수능이 끝난 이후에도 홍초를 내세운 다양한 마케팅 활동으로 그간 고생이 많았던 수험생들을 지원할 계획이다.
Chung Jung Won explained that this is an event for tired students that have been preparing for the exams for such a long time, so that they can be in good condition on the exam day. Also, that even after the exams, the company plans to continue supporting those students that have suffered so much, through various HongCho marketing events.
한편, 홍초는 피로회복 등에 도움이 되는 기능성 원료인 콜라겐과 헛개나무 농축액, 그리고 식이섬유를 풍부하게 함유하고 있는 건강기능성 음용식초다.
HongCho is a healthy vinegar drink that includes collagen, liquids extracted from the Oriental Raisin Tree, and a lot of fiber, and is very helpful for recovering from tiredness. (end.)
For sure, HongCho does sound quite healthy. And, technically, it is not a diet-drink:
Diet drinks: Include calorie-free and low-calorie versions of sodas, fruit drinks, energy drinks, sports drinks, and carbonated water, consistent with definitions reported by the National Cancer Institute and U.S. Food and Drug Administration food labeling guidelines. Diet drinks do not include 100% fruit juice or unsweetened teas or coffees.
However, a quick perusal of the Chung Jung Won website demonstrates that it is explicitly being marketed as a “body-changing” drink, with — especially after photoshopping — exceptionally tall and skinny Jun Ji-hyun (전지현) endorsing it most recently (that’s Kim Hee-sun/김희선 from 2010 above). Also, the following website screenshot (from 2011) and commercial show that the body-changing theme is no mere Konglish accident:
There also appears to be a sponsorship deal with the Diet War program:
Meanwhile, girl-group Kara (카라) are promoting the drink in Japan, with much the same theme. Which is ironic, considering that these are the same women who admitted that they can’t even drink water on the (frequent) days that they’re required to wear revealing clothing:
What do you think? Have any Korea-based readers had similar promotions at their own schools? How about overseas? Are concerns and issues different there? I know that in the US for instance, it is more sodas that are the considered a problem, and that if students drank HongCho instead that would probably be considered a blessing. From TIME back in March (my emphasis):
If some public-health advocates have their way, sodas could become the cigarettes of food. Doctors already dislike the sugary drinks for their teeth-dissolving properties and for the role they may play in childhood obesity. There’s a constant struggle to get soda vending machines out of public schools, with administrators often forced to choose between losing sponsorship money from big soda companies and dealing with overcaffeinated, less healthy kids. Given the sheer size of the American soda industry — 9.4 billion cases of soft drinks were sold in the U.S. in 2009 — it’s not a war that will end anytime soon. Especially if a certain C word starts getting thrown around.
Update: From the picture, I got the impression that is was only girls’ schools that were targeted, but the advertorial (I can’t bring myself to call it a news report) only mentions 20 schools, and is repeated verbatim across newspapers. If readers find any more information though, please pass it on here!
Update 2: It’s not really related to the original post, but if you read that TIME magazine article above, you may also be interested in the recent findings that one of the main reasons for US children’s obesity is that they’re eating away from home so often, and (of course) that they’re mostly eating junk food when they do.
- Korean Sociological Image #66 – Inventing Labels for Women’s Bodies
- Gender Studies 101: How the media perpetuates negative body images
- How Korean Girls Learn to be Insecure About Their Bodies
Tonight at 7pm I’ll be on Busan e-FM’s Let’s Talk Busan again, this time talking about Korean beauty standards and cosmetic surgery. You can listen on the radio at 90.5, or online here (please note that you’ll have to download Windows Media Player 10 first), and I’ll add a link to the archived version once it becomes available.
Sorry to those of you who tuned in 2 weeks ago, only to hear me speak for just a couple of minutes in total: 7 guests was far too many. But I’m happy to report that there’ll just be 3 of us this time!
When crusty old Confucians will slap them in the face for smoking, then surely women will tend to smoke in private, and keep mum about it if anyone asks. That’s just common sense.
But, as discussed in previous posts in this series (Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Newsflash, Part 4, Korea’s Hidden Smokers, How Many Teenage Girls Are Smoking?), that still seems to escape many journalists and researchers, who work under the assumption that very few Korean women smoke (officially, just 2.8% in 2010 for instance, against 42.6% of men). Whereas in reality, previous best estimates put the figure at 17% for young women, pointing to a looming health crisis.
So, how to convince the Korean government to take action? Especially when successive administrations have been accused of exaggerating their successes in reducing the male smoking rate, while ignoring the indirect evidence for rising female one?
What’s needed is irrefutable proof. To get that, one reader suggested installing highly sensitive smoke detectors in the toilets of schools and universities, where many young women hide to smoke, while another, thinking of a rough minimum rate for teenage girls, to simply look at the number that were caught by their teachers (14% at his school). A third, probably most reliable option is to test for nicotine in their urine, via the medical tests given to every middle and high-school student, and, as explained in the recently-released article “Relationship Between BMI, Body Image, and Smoking in Korean Women as Determined by Urine Cotinine: Results of a Nationwide Survey” in the Asian Pacific Journal of Cancer Prevention (Volume 13, 2012; 1003-1010), a group of researchers from various universities have indeed focused on pee, albeit that of women aged 19 and over in the 2008-2009 Korea National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey instead.
Very readable at just 8 pages, half of which are tables or references, I highly recommend downloading the PDF (just email me for a copy if the link stops working). For readers without the time though, let me pass on the abstract here instead (click on it to make it bigger), then some highlights:
— Unfortunately, the sampling method, explained on page 1004, is very poorly explained, and I think has some crucial typos. But in sum, out of 4,600 households in the survey, 5,485 women above the age of 19 “were selected for further analysis because complete data concerning their socioeconomic and health factors and body-related variables were available.” How many 19+ women were in the original household survey though, and how and why extra information about these 5,485 of them was available (e.g., were they randomly selected for further tests?), is not provided.
— Urinary cotinine “is widely used as a biomarker for smoking because of its high sensitivity and specificity,” the level of 50 ng/mL used here being a widely accepted cut-off level for indicating active, rather than passive smokers.
— Here are the figures by age bracket, with their standard errors. Unfortunately, I lack the statistical background to understand the discrepancies between reported and “analyzed” rates sorry (for example, 158 out of 704 is actually 22.4%):
- 19-29: 158 smokers out of 704 (23.1%, 2.0%)
- 30-39: 178 smokers out of 1075 (17.3%, 1.3%)
- 40-49: 134 smokers out of 1046 (13.5%, 1.2%)
- 50-59: 97 smokers out of 1001 (9.3%, 1.0%)
- 60-69: 70 smokers out of 919 (7.5%, 1.1%)
- 70+: 87 smokers out of 740 (12.1%, 1.5%)
— Overall, 14.5% of the participants smoked, just under 1 in 7. Note that the article mentions that the reported rate in 2011 was 7.0%, which arguably more indicates how useless official figures are than a sudden dramatic jump from the 2.8% of 2010 (both figures are from the OECD).
— The article does an excellent job of breaking the figures down by age, income, occupation, and marital status, demonstrating that the notion of an “overall” or “average” female (or male) smoking rate is misguided and unhelpful anyway. Please see previous posts in the series for more discussion of that.
— Finally, the focus of the article is on the relationship between smoking rates and the difference between subjects’ Body Mass Index (BMI) and Subjective Body Perception (SBP), and found that that was indeed:
…the most important factor determining female smoking behavior. Women with low BMI who perceived themselves as normal or fat were most likely to smoke; these results suggested that subjective body recognition plays as important a role as objective physical measures such as BMI in smoking behavior. Moreover, in women who were never married, divorced or widowed, underweight BMI was highly correlated with smoking. Thus, it is necessary to educate the public to have a correct self-body perception and a good understanding or the relationship between smoking and weight issues in order to reduce female smoking. In particular, women who were never married and had low BMI were especially susceptible to smoking and require special attention and preventative care (p. 1009).
Unfortunately, those educators will have their work cut out for them: Korea is the only developed country in the world where women in their 20s and 30s are getting thinner rather than more obese (and, accordingly, are the slimmest), yet a 2010 study would find that 2/3rds of female university students still overestimated their own weight (and, tellingly, all of those 2/3rds were actually either normal or underweight).
Update: Interestingly, the notion that cigarettes put off hunger was once used to sell cigarettes to men as well as women. I wonder when and why that stopped?