The True Origins of Pizza: Irony, the Internet, & East Asian Nationalisms


Or in short, putting reactions to that Mr. Pizza (미스터피자) commercial under the magnifying glass. If you haven’t already then, make sure to read Stephen Epstein and Rumi Sakamoto’s article of the above title at Japan Focus here, and thanks very much to them for the mention.


Creative Korean Advertising #26: Koreans Laughing at Themselves

Update – As I’ve learned from this comments thread, satire and irony is much more common in Korean popular culture than I gave it credit for. However, they’re also definitely used and expressed in very different ways by Koreans and Westerners, as this comment there makes clear.

Update 2 – Consider this quick observation about sarcasm too.

To put it mildly, Koreans don’t often use satire and irony in their popular culture. And when non-Koreans do? Hell, that can even get them deported.

Which explains many of the Korean reactions to the video above, at first sight part of a US-made documentary dismissing Korean claims of cultural theft by foreigners. But actually, it’s one of a series of commercials by the Korean company Mr Pizza (미스터피자). Not only hilarious in their own right, I’m struggling to think of any similar Korean send-ups of real-life examples of excessive, often downright looney Korean nationalism. Or at least by as prominent a source as Jeong Woo-hyeon (정우현), chairman of the company since 1989.

Granted, some things Koreans are proud of only appear absurd in translation. But then there are cases like this completely serious claim that Christmas trees the world over are Korean, for instance, and that consequently the world owes Korea royalties. Live in Korea, and one hears of similar things every other week, let alone faces a daily deluge of related advertisements and government and NGO campaigns.

Indeed, many of these are referenced and joked about in the commercial, which is part of what makes it so funny. For starters, take the man at the beginning holding a placard saying “도둑” (thief): no big deal to most foreign observers, it encourages a double-take by those who expected it to say “독도” (Dokdo) instead. A little later, many of the images on the college dropout’s computer and on his walls are well-known on the Korean internet (especially that map). And so on.


As of yet though, unfortunately the campaign doesn’t seem to have been picked up by the Korean media. While I expect it will be eventually (as I type this, a duplicate YouTube video has nearly 100,000 views, and many more comments), it has to be said that, expats aside, it will have the most appeal to Korea’s more cosmopolitan consumers, who are more likely to think out of the box. But that’s a good start, and indeed one of them is busy emailing her friends about it in the next room, many of whom are overcoming their instinctive defensiveness and ultimately enjoying it just as much she did!^^

(Many thanks to dogdyedblack, both for passing on the video and his astute observations about it. For more posts in the “Korean Creative Advertising” series, see here)

Creative Korean Advertising #25: Change Your Emoticon!

Regardless of your feelings about cosmetic surgery, hopefully this will still bring a smile to your face this weekend. Thanks to reader Tobi for passing it on!^^

Update: Fellow blogger 아름답다, ah-lum-dahp-dah also noticed the ad.

(For all posts in the Creative Korean Advertising series, see here)


Creative Korean Advertising #24: Will They? Won’t They?

Apologies for the slow posting folks: last week, I developed a “swellbow” from writing at my computer for too long, and it’s made sleeping a little difficult, let alone blogging. And I could mention the heatwave and my daughter’s kindergarten closing for 2 weeks too, but you get the idea!

Hence my original intention here just to pass on the deceptively innocent advertisement above, which had me burst out laughing at its crude sexual symbolism. But in hindsight it is also noteworthy both for having a woman initiating a relationship (possibly the first of its kind?), and for being part of a creative multimedia campaign featuring tantalizing hints of various episodes in various couples’ dating lives, which you’re then encouraged to find out more about by using the electronic tags on the bottles to download the “full stories” directly to your smart phone. Take a look for yourself:

Yes, my curiosity was especially piqued by the one involving kissing too, and it’s difficult to believe now that you only began seeing that in Korean advertisements just last year.  Regardless, fortunately the full stories are also available at the company website and now Youtube, and ironically that particular one ends up being more charming than anything else:

I hope you enjoyed them, and for anyone that missed the humor in the very first advertisement, then take a closer look at o:19 specifically. Lest you feel I’m reading too much into that however, then let me draw your attention to similar examples here, here, here, and here also!^^

(For more posts in the Creative Korean Advertising series, see here)


Creative Korean Advertising #23: Namdaemun Market

( Source: KOREA.NET )

Not an original concept for an advertisement by any means, but then considering Korea’s abysmal record at self-promotion then it deserves praise just for its grammatically correct English(!), let alone how aesthetically-pleasing it is.

For Namdaemun market (남대문 시장) in Seoul, the background to it is explained in the notes to’s Flickr page:

Starting March 2010, the Agency for Traditional Market Administration will place a full-page advertisement in ASIANA, the in-flight magazine of Asiana Airlines, in line with promoting Korea’s traditional markets worldwide. The agency came up with ten representative traditional markets in Korea – including Seoul’s Dongdaemun Market, Jidong Market in Suwon, Jagalchi Market in Busan, Seogwipo market on Jeju-do Island and so on – and each market will be advertised in this monthly magazine until December.

The project kicked off with the nation’s biggest, Seoul’s Namdaemun Market, a place that “has everything from women’s and children’s clothes to ginseng and seaweed, to flowers and kitchenware.”

Alas, traditional markets everywhere in Korea are in slow but sure decline, so best of luck to them. Unfortunately however, the English remains very awkward in the next 3 examples in the series here, here, and here also, but I did like luxuriating over all the details in the last one for a market on Jeju Island:

( Source: KOREA.NET )

(For all posts in the Creative Korean Advertising series, see here)


Creative Korean Advertising #16: The Male Gaze

Diamond Ogilvy Korea Olympus E3 Autofocus( Source: Add Shots )

Given my Feminist pretensions, then usually I’d instinctively feel defensive about my decision to post an ad like this, and in the past this has often prompted me to write lengthy arguments about how, say, exposure of breasts per se shouldn’t be regarded as sexist. But with some notable exceptions (and from which I’ve learned a great deal from), whether through preaching to the converted, most of my readers being men(?), or some other reason, judging by the lack of detracting comments on those occasions then such justifications have probably proved unnecessary.

So, I’ll let it go: readers certainly don’t need me to spell out that on the one hand this ad is definitely objectifying, but on the other that men would behave exactly the same way even if women had achieved complete equality, and can decide for themselves if it’s sexist or not (I’m still happy to discuss that in the comments section though). In the meantime, I’m learning to feel less ashamed about the unabashed grins ads like this put on my face, especially the first ad in this post.

Actually, a much more interesting issue it raises is its directness. Of course objectifying women is hardly new or unique to Korean ads, but I can’t think of any other example that so blatantly incorporates the corresponding (sexual) male gaze into its message, and this makes it more sexual than, say, the sudden spate of couples kissing in Korean advertisements that is making news recently (see here, here, and here). On top of that, it actually went up way back in November 2007 too (see the details here), which raises some interesting questions:

  • How common was it?
  • Where was it posted?
  • Were there any complaints?
  • If so, was it removed from circulation?
  • If not, why have there been no similar ads since?
  • Or perhaps there have been, it’s just that I didn’t notice them?

If any readers can help me with any of those, I’d appreciate it. In the morning, and with apologies for not doing this first, I’ll scour Naver and so on and see if there’s anything in Korean on it.

Update: Unfortunately I couldn’t find anything at all about this ad in Korea, either at Naver or Yahoo! Korea, and which makes me wonder if it was actually released or not? But as for ads featuring the male gaze, I forgot about this one with Han Ye-seul (한예슬) for lingerie company Venus (비너스). From February 2008:

(For all posts in my “Creative Korean Advertising” series, see here)


Creative Korean Advertising #11: Going All The Way


(Cha Su-yeon and Jung Il-woo. Source: Paranzui)

Probably the only Korean commercial ever to feature a woman repeatedly moving up and down on top of her boyfriend(!), in hindsight it’s kind of bizarre that I barely noticed it when it came out two years ago:

Much more interesting though, is what is written and said. For not only does the background text read “You need Vitamin C for love too!” (사랑에도 비타민C가 필요하다!) for instance, but, like Chris explains at Dead Girl:

Boyfriend is trying to airplane girlfriend but he’s having trouble maintaining, if you know what I mean, and so he downs a bottle of 비타500. Immediately invigorated, dude now has no problem keeping her up, and at the end he asks her, “Where shall we go?” She replies, “Hong Kong!”, which I now know is a pretty popular euphemism here in Korea for an orgasm, its origins being the affluent image of Hong Kong that was held in the collective consciousness of Korea until not too long ago. So ladies, next time your man asks where you wanna go, demand he take you to Hong Kong, and don’t let him stop till you get there.

Noble sentiments indeed.

I confess, that was also the first time I’d ever heard that of that slang, although I’d add that when I first arrived in 2000, for this particular usage of the English “coming” the equivalent was “going” in Korean, so “going to Hong Kong” makes sense. Unfortunately for the sake of linguistic variety however, by now the Korean (and Japanese) seems to have been completely Anglicized.

Either way, it’s difficult to imagine such explicit sexual slang being used in a daytime commercial in most English-speaking countries. Something to bear in mind the next time you hear about how “sexually conservative” Koreans are supposed to be! :D

(For more posts in the “Creative Korean Advertising” series, see here)