Korean Sociological Image #82: Pink it and shrink it!

Song Hye-Gyo Pink Icis 8.0(Source)

Hello everyone, I’m James. I’m 37, male, and heterosexual. And I love pink.

It started innocently enough. As “The Korean Gender Guy” (TM), some splashes of it seemed appropriate here and there. Hence the pink hyperlinks and image borders on the blog in recent months (update: and, in November, a change to an all-pink theme).

Bart in Heels

Then, as a father of two young daughters, I realized I needed to embrace it for their sakes. On the one hand, to demonstrate that it’s not just a girls’ color, so they in turn would be more open to the blue side of the toy aisle. On the other, to make it so uncool, unfeminine, and/or ugly in their eyes that they’d be put off it for the remainder of their childhoods and adolescence, with all the gender socialization that comes with it.

Mostly this meant things like fighting over rare pink game tokens, and drawing a lot of pink planets and rockets for “Extra Burn!” (TM) our own hand-made, much improved version of snakes and ladders. Later, whenever it was an option, pink would also become the default choice for things we bought when out shopping together, like a kitchen tray, or Xylitol gum that came in a pink shiny bag.

Still, there was nothing that couldn’t be forgiven for a guy living with three females. But done so often, it soon became automatic, even for things just for myself. Before I knew it, I’d be leaving for work with my cute pink umbrella, pink socks under my black work pants, pink-tinted sunglasses still in my bag (bought in New Zealand, but which I’d been assured were “just too dam gay” to wear there); pink folders for my class plans; phone with pink Haters to the Leftcover, and neon-pink headphones for my MP3 player. On the subway, I’d take advantage of the wifi to check on the delivery progress of a pink suitcase I’d just bought online, rationalizing that the color would make it easier to spot at airports.

So, when the inevitable confrontation came, from a visibly uncomfortable male friend, I admit I shared his double-take. In my case though, I realized I looked…well, just fabulous actually, and wondered what else I could add.

Something drastic had to happen soon. Otherwise, who knows what depths of depravity I would have sunk to?

Fortunately, a reality check was recently provided by Lotte Chilsung through Song Hye-Gyo, who reminded me that I was the wrong sex to enjoy “Icis 8.0,” their latest bottled water…

(“Healthy under-eye areas? Pink! Healthy cheeks? Pink! Healthy fingertips? Pink! Healthy lips? Pink! So…how about healthy water? Invigorating pink energy! Icis 8.0!”)

Squarely aimed at women in their 20s and 30s, alas, I’ve been unable to find a source explaining the rationale behind its pink-centered marketing campaign, and am especially confused about how a pH of 8.0 would be pink exactly (my understanding is that it would actually be blue?). However, I did find the following article on very similar examples of gendered marketing, which I think provides some insights. That is to say, it’s clearly an advertorial on the one hand, but on the other I think no exaggeration or misrepresentation of their marketers’ rationales either, the sheer bullshit required to sell something like water to just one sex being nothing short of astounding. Yet, in hindsight, utterly predictable too.

“여자들만 드세요” 여성전용 식음료 제품들 ‘눈길’ “Women Only”: Eye-catching food and drink products exclusively for women

Betanews, 14/09/2009, 이직 기자 (leejik@betanews.net)

여자의 손길을 얼만큼 많이 받느냐에 따라 생사여부가 결정되는 곳이 식음료 시장이다. 관련 기업들은 여성의 감성을 자극하기 위하여 장동건, 정우성, 알렉스 등 한 시대를 풍미하고 있는 ‘훈남’들을 광고 모델로 내세운다. 하지만 정작 여자의 마음은 남자보다 여자가 더 잘 아는 법이다. 이를 반영하듯이 최근 ‘I’m Woman!’을 선언한 여성전용 컨셉 제품들이 잇따라 출시되고 있어 눈길을 끌고 있다.

The food and drink marketplace is where products with a woman’s touch will succeed or fail. Some companies have used currently popular handsome men like Jang Dong-gun, Jung Woo-Sung, and Alex Chu to appeal to women. However, in real life, women know women’s hearts and minds much better than men. With this in mind, several companies have launched products following an “I’m a Woman!” concept.

Panablu Sure(Source; sources far above — unknown)

파나블루 ‘슈어’ – 피부에 좋은 미네랄 성분, 여자 손에 맞는 용기 디자인, Pink & Purple 컬러.

Panablu’s “Sure” — [A water drink] with mineral components good for the skin, and in a pink and purple container that fits perfectly into women’s hands.

국내1호 해양심층수 기업 파나블루(http://www.panablu.co.kr / 대표 설동환)는 올 여름 여성을 위한 뷰티(Beauty)워터 ‘슈어(SURE)’를 출시했다. 슈어는 물의 성분부터 용기 디자인까지 철저하게 여성을 형상화 한 제품이다.

Panablu is the first domestic company to sell mineral water sourced from the ocean depths, with company representative Sol Dong-Hwan explaining that Sure was launched this summer for women’s beauty. From the mineral components to the container design, it is a product thoroughly designed for women.

[James: Panablu wasn't the first -- Lotte Chilsung was using Olympic swimmer Park Tae-Hwan to sell "Bluemarine" at least a year before the first news reports about "Sure" I can find.]

슈어는 세계 최고 깊이인 수심 1500m의 해양심층수로 여자 피부에 좋은 미네랄이 일반 먹는샘물 제품 보다 10배 이상 함유되어 있는 ‘여자의 물’이다. 용기 디자인도 여성의 S 라인과 바다의 물결을 형상화 한 아름다운 곡선이 물병 전체를 감싸고 있다. 하지만 이 곡선은 단지 미(美)를 표현한 것만은 아니다. 신비스러운 여자의 신체 비밀도 담겨 있다. 이 물결 무늬는 20~30대 여성 300명을 대상으로 실시 한 ‘보틀 핸드프린팅 테스트(bottle hand printing test)’의 결과로 여자 손에 가장 편안한 그립감을 안겨줄 수 있게끔 디자인 된 것이다.

Sure water is taken from a depth of 1500m under the sea, the greatest depth of any mineral water source, and this “women’s water” contains 10 times more minerals that are good for women’s skin than regular bottled waters. Also, the curve of the bottle beautifully captures both the swell of sea waves and women’s S-lines. However, it doesn’t just visually capture their beauty — it also holds the secrets to their mysterious bodies [James: *Cough*, *Splutter*]. It was tested on 300 women in their 20s and 30s in a “bottle hand printing test,” and they selected it as the most convenient and comfortable to grip and hold.

파나블루 마케팅팀 이만 팀장은 “먹는샘물 시장 조사 결과 휴대용 물을 구입하는 소비자 가운데 80% 이상이 여성이었다”면서 “이에 맞춰 슈어는 여성 몸에 꼭 맞는 물의 성분과 그립감 뿐만 아니라 기본 색상도 그동안 생수 제품에 많이 사용되어 왔던 블루(Blue)계열 대신 핑크앤퍼블(Pink & Purple)톤을 채택하게 되었다”고 말했다.

Panablu marketing team manager Lee Man said, “The results of a survey of the bottled water market showed that over 80% of consumers were women,” and that “Sure is not just a product with a grip and components perfectly designed for women’s bodies, but so too were the colors pink and purple chosen rather than the blue which most bottled waters have.”

[James: Strangely, hourglass-shaped bottles have also been claimed to be the perfect shape for women's hands, and indeed Icis 8.0's ribbed bottle too.]

S Beer Korea S-line(Sources: left, right)

하이트맥주 ‘S’ – 여자를 위한 저(低)도수, 저칼로리, 식이섬유 첨가로 장 운동 촉진까지

Hite “S Beer” for Women — Low alcohol level, low calories, added fiber, designed to aid bowel movements

하이트맥주는 올 여름 여대생 홍보대사를 대대적으로 모집하는 등 ‘여성’과 ‘S라인’에 컨셉을 맞춘 여성전용 맥주 ‘S맥주’의 마케팅 활동을 대폭 강화했다. S맥주는 식이섬유 첨가, 저 칼로리, 저 도수, 매혹적인 에메랄드 빛깔 용기, S라인 모양의 전용 잔 등 여러모로 여성을 닮은 맥주다.

This summer, Hite Beer recruited female university students on a grand scale to market “S Beer,” a beer designed for women combining the concepts of “woman” and “S-line.” S Beer as added fiber, low calories, low alcohol content, a seductive emerald bottle, with glasses in S-line shapes that resemble women’s bodies in many ways.

[James: These are the glasses referred to (has anyone seen one in real life?). In contrast to those claims about them, much of the early marketing for the product -- when this article was written -- seemed to center on how much women's bodies could resemble the bottles rather than vice-versa, such as on the left above.]

S맥주에는 여성에게 꼭 필요한 식이섬유가 다량으로 함유되어 장 운동을 촉진시키고 체형관리에 도움을 준다. 칼로리도 100ml당 40~50kcal인 다른 맥주와 달리 30kcal로 낮춰 다이어트 하는 여성도 부담 없이 마실 수 있도록 했다. 평소 술을 잘 못하는 여성을 고려해 알코올 도수도 4.0%로 낮췄다.

S Beer has a large amount of the fiber absolutely essential for women, and through aiding bowel movements helps them to maintain their figures. Whereas most beers have 40-50 kcal per 100ml, this has been reduced to 30 kcal in S Beer, allowing even women on diets to drink it freely. Also, the alcohol content has been reduced to 4.0%, making it suitable for women who can’t usually drink.

이 외에도 국내에서는 처음으로 용기 전체에 매혹적인 에메랄드 컬러를 적용해 세련된 느낌을 표현했다. 가장 눈에 띄는 것은 S맥주의 전용 잔으로 ‘S라인’으로 날씬하게 굴곡진 여체를 형상화 한 점이 특징이다.

In addition, S Beer is the first domestic beer to have a seductive, emerald-colored bottle, giving off a sophisticated feeling. But the most notable thing are the exclusive glasses, slender and curved in the shape of a woman’s S-line.

Paris Baguette Royal Pudding(Source)

파리바게뜨 ‘로얄푸딩’ – 작고 투명한 유리병이 핸드백에 쏙… 휴대성 높이고, 칼로리 낮추고

Paris Baguette’s “Royal Pudding” — With a small, clear glass container, just drop it in your handbag…high portability, low calories

파리바게뜨는 2030 여성들을 위한 유럽식 프리미엄 디저트 ‘로얄푸딩’을 출시했다. ‘로얄푸딩’은 신선한 우유와 달걀, 카라멜 시럽이 독특한 맛의 조화를 이루는 제품이다. 입안에 넣는 순간 여느 푸딩에서 맛 볼 수 없는 부드러움과 달콤함을 느낄 수 있다. 하지만, ‘로얄푸딩’은 달콤한 맛에 비해 칼로리는 낮다. 80g 제품 한 개 당 칼로리는 140kcal로 일반 테이크 아웃 카페라떼의 칼로리(300kcal) 보다 저 열량을 자랑한다.

Paris Baguette has launched its premium, European-style desert “Royal Pudding,” aimed at 20 and 30-something women. Royal Pudding is a product with a taste that has achieved a unique harmony of fresh milk, eggs, and caramel syrup. Unlike most puddings, you can taste the softness and sweetness as soon as you put in your mouth. Yet despite that sweetness, it is low in calories. It boasts only 140kcal per 80g, whereas a takeout cafe latte has 300kcal [James: Granted. But how big would that latte be?].

‘로얄푸딩’의 용기는 작고 귀여운 숙녀를 닮았다. 그래서 여성들의 큰 호응을 얻고 있다. 한 손에 잡히는 투명하고도 깜찍한 용기는 시각적 만족감과 함께 핸드백 속에도 부담 없이 들어가 휴대의 편리함을 높였다.

The Royal Pudding container resembles a small, cute lady, so it has a wide appeal to women. Conveniently fitting in one hand, the small, cute container is highly portable. It can be simply dropped in a handbag and carried without a thought.

Dr. Chlorella S(Source)

대상웰라이프 ‘닥터클로렐라S’ – 여성전용 클로렐라 제품, 복용 간편하고 변비와 피부미용에 효과

Daesang WellLife “Dr. Chlorella S” — A chlorella product for women, an easy, effective medicine for constipation and skin beauty

대상웰라이프의 ‘닥터클로렐라S’는 외부 이동이 많고 바쁜 커리어 우먼을 위한 여성전용 클로렐라 제품으로 성분부터 형태까지 여성을 중심에 두고 만든 건강기능식품이다. 닥터클로렐라S에는 ‘락츄로스’가 첨가되어 직장인 여성에게 많이 나타나는 스트레스로 인한 만성 소화불량과 변비를 해소하는데 도움을 준다. 또한 각종 식물성 영양성분을 비롯한 식이섬유질이 들어있어 업무에 지친 직장인 여성들의 피부 건강을 회복하는데도 효과적이다.

From its mineral components to its shape, Daesang WellLife’s Dr. Chlorella S is a chlorella product with many health functions centered on career women who are often on their feet. Dr. Chlorella S contains added lactulose, which helps relieve the stress and chronic digestion problems and constipation which many career women suffer from. It also has many vegetable nutrients and added fiber which is effective for recovering the health of tired women workers’ skin.

닥터클로렐라S의 포장은 개별 낱개 형식으로 가볍고 부피가 작아 여성들이 시간과 장소에 구애 받지 않고 복용할 수 있도록 구성되어 있다. 또한 제품의 형태도 목 넘김과 소화 시킬 때 부담이 적고 장에서의 흡수가 빨라 여성들이 선호하는 과립형으로 만들었다.

Dr. Chorella S consists of small, light pills that are easy to take wherever and whatever you’re doing [James -- It also came in powdered form]. The shape makes them easy to swallow, with the granules inside, which are quickly absorbed in the intestines, making them women’s preferred choice.

[James -- Judging by the lack of news articles and blog posts after 2009, Dr. Chlorella S was a failure. I'm guessing, because it wasn't pink? ㅋㅋㅋ]

파나블루 마케팅팀 이만 팀장은 “전통적으로 여성 소비자들에게 성공한 브랜드는 향후 브랜드 확장을 할 때 비교적 쉽게 안착할 수 있었다”면서 “식음료 시장에서 브랜드 확장이 활발하게 이뤄지고 있다는 점을 감안한다면 여성전용 식음료 제품은 앞으로도 꾸준히 출시 될 것”이라고 말했다.

Lee Man, the Panablu marketing team manager, said “Brands that were traditionally successful with female consumers could relatively easily reach them when they wanted to expand,” and that “In the food and drink product, many brands are actively considering women-targeted products. Expect to see many more of them in the future.” (End)

IU SHINee Pink is for girls(Sources: left, right)

Before I forget, sorry again for the slow posting everyone, but I was very busy at work, and caught a frustrating, lingering cold. Meanwhile, have any readers encountered similar gendered campaigns for unisex products, in Korea or overseas? Also, how do any parents among you deal with your children’s attitudes to pink and blue? Please let me know!

p.s. I wasn’t joking about my own, “pink strategy” in the introduction, or about any of my purchases. I really do think I look fabulous with them! :D

Update: I forgot to mention these his and her “V-line” face-shapers, the ads for which can be seen almost on every other website at the moment (if you live in Korea).

V-line Face Shaper Women 2V-line Face Shaper MenAlso, management company E-tribe contracted their girl-group Dal Shabet to endorse the product. Such endorsements by Korean Wave stars likely play a strong role in the propagation of Korean beauty ideals overseas:

V-line Face Shaper WomenRelated Posts:

(For more posts in the Korean Sociological Image series, see here)

“Kang So-ra! When Are You Going To Stop Being So Fat?!”

(Source: Metro, Busan edition, May 31 2012, p. 11)

One of the great advantages of Erving Goffman’s Gender Advertisements, I tell students in my lectures on gender roles in Korean ads, is that it’s not language-based. Whether the ads are from Korea, Kenya, or Khazakstan, I rhapsodize, it’s all about the pictures, making cross-country and historical comparisons possible.

In reality though, culture and language are still important. The tendency towards positioning men higher than women in ads for instance, implying their superiority (just think of the purpose of thrones), can pale against a seated matriarch’s greater social status. Also, ads may allude to popular books, movies, or songs that a foreign observer is unaware of, and/or the text make a pun about the images that a non-native speaker would struggle to understand.

In short, Korean ads can be far more subtle than they may at first appear to someone like me, let alone less gender-stereotyping.

(Source: unknown)

With that in mind, I decided to quickly re-examine K-Swiss’s “S-liner Polo Shirt” ad with Kang So-ra (강소라), that I’d previously dismissed as just yet another example of the ridiculous poses Korean advertisers put women in to show their S-lines off. After all, however unlikely, maybe she’s done a humorous Walk like an Egyptian dance at some point in her brief career (say, in the popular movie Sunny last year), and was parodying that? Or maybe there was something in the text to explain her pose?

Alas, no. Judging by the TV commercial above, the ridiculous pose and dance were definitely just for K-Swiss. And as for the text, that doesn’t redeem the ad either…although I’d have never guessed it would have taken me, my wife, and two of her friends nearly half an hour to figure that out!

It looked easy enough: “강소라” is Kang So-ra’s name, “언제까지” is “until when”, and “살텐가” is “will live”, as in the more formal form “살거예요”. But “통짜로”? Literally, it’s the adverb “wholly”, but that made no sense. So, with the logic that perhaps 22 year-old Kang So-ra formerly lacked feminine curves then, but now, as per the dictates of Korean consumerism and gender roles,  she’s compelled to show them off at every available opportunity, we decided it meant “통” as in the Hanja character that means a (usually cylindrical) container (i.e. a body), “짜” which can often mean “thing” or “person” (see pages 263 and 374 of the Handbook of Korean Vocabulary respectively!), and “로”, which in this case would mean “as”, or “in the manner of”.

Putting aside what role such exhortations may or many not have in Koreans’ intense body dysphoria for a moment (uniquely in the developed world, Korean women aged between 20-39 are becoming more underweight than obese), we were pretty proud of ourselves for figuring that out. But then my wife’s second friend arrived, who pointed out that “통짜” is actually a sort-of adjective means “fat”, as in “통짜몸메가 있어”. Specifically, after a lot of time arguing about whether it actually more meant “curved” than fat per se (recall what “통” can mean above), it means a fat waist, regardless of how curved the rest of the body is (or not — it can be used to describe me men too).

So there you have it: literally, the appalling “Kang So-ra! Until when —  fat person as — going to live?!”. But suddenly, as I type this, I have renewed doubts: was Kang So-ra considered fat previously? Even if so, surely she is indeed no longer living as a fat person, in the ad? And so on.

So by all means, I admit I may be completely mistaken, and would welcome any alternative translations and explanations of the text. But either way, I doubt it provides a very body-positive message.

Meanwhile, if it’s true that 통짜 bodies lack the shapely breasts and buttocks of an S-line, then perhaps there’s something to the photo of Uee (유이) above that show’s that there’s actually two concepts of the term? In the diagram, it says that men think it refers to the blue whereas women think it refers to the red, but the results seem pretty mixed at the original post on Facebook.

Which do you think it means?

“Making Pretty Women” (예쁜 여자 만들기) — Consumerism, S-lines, and Learning that Healthy≠Beautiful in 1930s Korea

(Sources: left — unknown; right)

As you all know, I’m very interested in women’s S-lin…let me rephrase that.

As you all know, I’m very interested in where body-labels like the S-line come from, how they’re used, why new ones appear so frequently in the Korean media, why Korean popular-culture is saturated with them, what role (if any) they have in comparative studies regularly finding that Korean women have the greatest levels of body dissatisfaction in the world (despite actually being the thinnest), and so on.

Unfortunately though, I’ve struggled for years to find Koreans that shared these interests. But that doesn’t necessarily mean that they’re not out there. More likely, I’ve just been looking in the wrong places.

I would never have guessed, for instance, that some of the first critical commentary on Korean ads I would find online would be in the form of student essays (and in English at that!), or that the first decent Korean discussion of excessive photoshopping in ads — next week’s translation — would be on a blog rather than in expensive advertising magazines. And somehow, inexplicably, it never occurred to me to simply type in “S-line” (S라인) and “history” (역사) into Korean search engines either.

Which is not to say that much came up at all actually. But it did lead me to Lee Yeong-ah’s (이영아, right; source) Making Pretty Women (예쁜 여자 만들기), published last year, en route to me as I type this. Based on the Busan Ilbo review of it I’ve translated below, it appears that while the S-line term itself wasn’t used back in the 1920s and ’30s, those were certainly formative years for Korean consumerism, in which the practice of encouraging and/or pandering to certain looks, styles of dress, and body shapes of especially female consumers was first established. Later, it would be (re)implemented with a vengeance by military governments that conflated consumerism with patriotism and national security.

On top of that, much of it catered to what were called “New Women” (shin-yoseong; 신여성), very similar to Flappers, who not only took advantage of scandalous foreign fashions and non-traditional lifestyles to assert their sexuality and women’s rights (reminding me very much of what I wrote about “pin-up grrrls”), but would also later face a backlash that would be eerily similar to that faced by “Beanpaste girls” (dwenjangnyeo; 된장녀) in the 2000s, and in similarly strained economic circumstances. Indeed, Yewon Lee of Yonsei Graduate School wrote about precisely that in 2007 (opens a PDF; see the end of the post for a full list of sources), and Gord Sellar and Gusts of Popular Feeling have also made the same connection.

Unfortunately however, the reviewer doesn’t mention this self-agency of New Women. Rather, he depicts them only as passive victims of new trends, who had no choice but to accommodate the new demands of the male gaze, manifest in the burgeoning media industry. Also, he ends the review with the curious assertions that, in light of this long history, today’s women shouldn’t be worried about likewise being obsessed with beauty, and that it is sufficient simply to be aware of his history in order to lead a happy life.

While such platitudes are common in the Korean media, I was disappointed to see them in what is otherwise one of the better pieces of Korean writing I’ve read in a while (again, my fault for looking in the wrong places!). And I hope that Lee Yeong-ah doesn’t share them.

(Source)

1930년대에도 ‘S라인열풍 The ‘S-line’ was popular in the 1930s too

Busan Ilbo, 5 March 2011

한국 여성들의 ‘미인 강박증’ 역사

Korean women’s history of being obsessed with beauty

‘가슴을 앞으로 그냥 내밀며, 양손을 위로 쭉 뻗었다가, 손끝이 발가락에 닿을 때, 양손을 아래로 뻗으며, 전신을 굽힌다. 이 운동을 계속하면 가슴의 모양이 곱게 발달되고 미끈한 각선미를 갖게 된다.’

“Stick your chest out, stretch both arms up high, bend over and curve your whole body, touching your toes with your fingertips. If you keep doing this exercise, your breasts will beautifully develop and you’ll get a sleek, slender bodyline.”

몸매를 가꾸기 위한 기본적인 스트레칭 동작에 대한 설명이다. 요즘 발행되는 여성잡지에 실린 내용일까. 천만에. 이 미용체조법은 1935년 10월 ‘삼천리’란 잡지에 실렸다. 여성들이 1930년대에 아름다운 몸을 가꾸기 위해 이런 동작들이 필요하다는 것을 알고, 실천했음을 보여주는 사례다. 오늘날 미인들의 필수요건 중 하나인 ‘S라인’이 이미 1930년대부터 각광받기 시작했다는 말이다.

This is an explanation of a basic stretch used for shaping your body. But it’s not from a magazine published today. Rather, it’s from the October 1935 edition of Samcheonri. Women in the 1930s all knew that they had to do this sort of thing in order to get a beautiful body, and an example of them doing it in practice too. These days, beautiful women know they need to get an ‘S-line’, but it was in the 1930s that this sort of thing started becoming popular.

(Source)

무엇이 이런 변화를 불러왔을까? 당시 조선에 볼거리를 즐기는 시각 중심 문화가 태동한 것이 결정적 이유다. 당시 인쇄매체의 사진과 삽화, 연극과 영화 속 여배우들, 길거리를 활보하는 신여성들을 통해 ‘여성의 몸’은 중요한 문화적 담론으로 부상했다. 여성들이 시각 중심 문화 속 남성들의 시선에 노출되면서부터 몸에 대한 인식의 변화가 시작됐던 것이다. 1931년 삼천리는 미인경연 대회를 개최했고, 미인대회는 갈수록 여성들의 몸을 노골적으로 드러내는데 치중했다. 당시 한 일간지는 여성의 아름다운 기준이 얼굴뿐만 아니라 풍만한 가슴, 잘록한 허리, 볼륨 있는 엉덩이, 미끈한 각선미를 고루 갖춰야 한다고 전했다. 바로 S라인이었다.

What brought about this change? In the final analysis, it was the quickening of Korea’s interest in and enjoyment of visual culture. At the time, through pictures and illustrations in print media, through actresses in plays and movies, and through “new women” just walking on the streets, women’s bodies became an important topic of cultural discourse. Because [this meant] they were increasingly exposed to the male gaze, women started changing Korean body and clothing culture. In 1931, the Samcheomri began holding beauty pageants, which stressed ever more suggestive clothing as time went by. A daily newspaper of the time would proclaim that beauty standards were no longer just focused on the face, but now covered the whole body, requiring voluptuous breasts, an hourglass waistline, voluminous buttocks, and a slender figure. This was the S-line.

1920~30년대 예술지상주의, 유미주의적 경향이 문화계에 확산된 것도 원인이다. 당시 예술가, 문학가, 사회적 유명 인사들은 건강한 몸보다 예쁜 몸에 더 중점을 뒀다. 그들의 ‘미인관’을 단적으로 보여주는 사례가 소설가 현진건의 관점이다. 그는 “키가 조금 큰 듯하고 목선이 긴 여자가 좋다. 제아무리 얼굴이 예쁘장하고 몸맵시가 어울려도 키가 땅에 기는 듯하고 목덜미가 달라붙은 여자는 보기만 해도 화증이 난다”고 했다. 그는 몸매 좋은 여성을 노골적으로 선호하는 데서 그치지 않고 몸매 나쁜 여성에게 화를 내고 있다. 오늘날 여성들이 보면 ‘정말 기가 막히고 코가 막힐’ 멘트다.

(Source)

One reason for this was that aesthetic trends and the notion of art for art’s sake began to influence culture too. Artists, cultural scholars, and famous society-people all stressed that a beautiful body was more important than a healthy body [James — sound familiar?]. One example is the novelist Hyeon Jin-geon, who bluntly wrote that “I like women that are tall with long necks. Even if their faces are pretty, and they have good bodies, if they are so short as to be crawling on the floor then I hate even looking at them”, something which would be considered crazy if written today.

위생을 이유로 여성들의 의복 변화가 권장됐다는 사실도 몸매 중요성 증가에 일조했다. 20세기 초 근대적 지식인들은 조선시대 여성의 옷이 위생에 해롭다며 개선해야 한다고 역설했다. 긴 저고리는 길거리의 더러운 오물을 쓸고 다녀 호흡기 질환을 낳고, 가슴을 동여맨 가슴띠는 흉부 압박을 심화시킨다고 했다. 이에 따라 여성들의 옷이 점차 몸매를 드러내는 쪽으로 바뀌었다. 미니스커트와 브래지어가 등장했다. 옷이 변하자 여성들의 몸에 대한 인식도 달라졌다.

Another reason for this new interest in bodylines was that women were encouraged to change their traditional outer garments for the sake of hygiene. In the early 20th Century, public-health advocates stressed that the Jogori, a traditional coat, was so long that it kept dragging in the dirt of the streets and caused respiratory ailments [James — by raising dust around the home?], and that binding women’s breasts put a lot of pressure on their thoraxes. Accordingly, fashions gradually changed. Miniskirts and bras appeared. And notions and practices about women’s bodies also changed.

여성들은 이런 사회적 분위기 속에서 자신들의 몸을 어떻게 바라보고 관리했을까. 요즘의 여성들이 그러하듯, 그들도 자신의 몸을 대상으로 전환해 바라봐야 했다. 자기 자신을 남성의 시선으로 응시하는 법을 배우고 그것이 정답이라고 세뇌됐던 것이다. 여성들은 지식인, 예술가, 직업부인이 되기 위해 미인이 돼야 했다. 그것은 생존의 문제였다. 그렇게 여성들은 ‘S라인’이 미인이라고 말하는 남성들의 시선에 맞추기 위해 자신의 몸을 가꿔야 했다.

(Source)

What did women think about this new social atmosphere, and how did they cope? Well, just like women now, they had to objectify their own bodies. It was drilled into them that they had to look at themselves how men would look at them. And in order to be respected [James — lit. a person of knowledge], or to be an artists, or to have a job, they had to become beautiful. It was a matter of survival. They had to adapt to and dress-up themselves to fit this notion of a beautiful woman being one that had an S-line.

예쁜 여자 되기에 성공했던 여성들의 운명은 어떠했을까. 그들은 세련된 미적 감각, 유행을 선도하는 패션, 화려한 외모로 인해 뭇 남성들에게 관심과 욕망의 대상이 됐다. 동시에 그녀들의 진보적인 사유와 자유로운 행보는 멸시와 질타의 대상이기도 했다. 1920년대 대표적 신여성이었던 윤심덕, 나혜석, 김원주 등은 그 누구도 행복한 말년을 보내지 못했다.

What became of the women who were successful in making such a transformation? They became the object of men’s desires for their sophistication, their sense of aestheticism, being leaders in fashion, and for their magnificent bodies. However, they were also the object of contempt and scorn for their progressive and free thinking. Of representative new women of the 1920s, such as Yun Shim-deok, Na Hye-seok, and Kim Won-ju and so on, none were happy in their old age.

‘예쁜 여자 만들기’는 한국 여성들의 미인 강박증 형성 역사를 보여준다. 예쁜 여자가 되기를 강요하고 압박하는 힘이 근대 이후 한국사회에 생겨난 것이기에 오늘날 여성들이 자책감을 가질 필요는 없다는 것이다. 근대의 몸, 여성 등에 관한 담론을 활발하게 제기해왔던 저자는 몸에 대한 모든 관심을 끊고 외양보다 내면의 아름다움을 추구하라는 식의 도덕적 결론을 강요하진 않는다.

Making Pretty Women shows us the history of women’s obsession with being beautiful. As the pressures women face in doing so have been around since the dawn of modern Korea, today’s women should not feel guilty about it. Moreover, in actively raising these discourses about women’s bodies, the writer does not moralize and argue that the practice should be stopped, or that inner beauty is more important than outward appearances.

대신 왜 우리가 몸에 대해 그렇게 지나치게 집착하는지를 제대로 알고, 그러한 앎을 통해 한층 행복한 삶을 사는 방법을 스스로 선택하라고 말한다. 여성들이 ‘앎’을 통해 위로받는다는 것으로도 족하다고 한다. 이영아 지음/푸른역사/343쪽/1만3천900원. 김상훈 기자 neato@busan.com

Rather, the author teaches us about today’s obsession with body image. Through this knowledge,women can choose to live happily, and this is sufficient (review by Kim Sang-hoon).

Sources

- Hellgren, Tess. “Explaining Underweight BMI and Body Dissatisfaction among Young Korean Women“, Spring 2011 Conant Prize in General Education, Harvard University, May 2 2011

- Lee, Yewon. How Women Are Represented within the Patriarchal Nationalism in (neo) Colonial Times, Paper presented at the annual meeting of the American Sociological Association, TBA, New York, New York City, Aug 11 2007

- Park, Bongsoo. “Sensational Politics of Desire and Trivial Pursuits: Public Censure of New Women in Private Lives in early 1930s Korea Paper presented at the annual meeting of the International Communication Association, Sheraton New York, New York City, NY,  May 25 2009

(Email me for PDFs if any links don’t work)

Korean Sociological Image #66 – Inventing Labels for Women’s Bodies

(Source)

Introduction – Objectification Done Right

This may be an old ad, but it’s just a great introduction to my Gender Advertisements in the Korean Context lecture. I’ll probably still be using it 10 years from now.

First, because it shows the value in spending a couple of extra seconds to really look at an ad. Most readers probably immediately notice the faux scratches and blotches on it, reminiscent of a phone screen overlay, but it’s easy to overlook that Kang Dong-Won (강동원) and Kim Tae-hee (김태희) themselves are also supposed to resemble the advertised phone. Once you notice that his collar resembles the reflection on the screen though, then you’ll quickly realize that his grey button represents the dial, and that her black belt buckle matches the cover of the entry port, the curve of her breasts the back of the phone at the top. It’s really quite clever.

But still: if they’re supposed to resemble the phone(s), then why weren’t models of equal heights used? Or why wasn’t the layout of the ad rearranged and/or Kim Tae-hee photoshopped to make her look as tall as Kang Dong-won? Either would have been quite easy, as this second phone ad with the two of them makes clear (source).

To explain, I raise Erving Goffman’s concept of “Relative Size”, or the fact that, if random men and women are paired off together, then in 1 in 6 cases the woman would be taller than the man, whereas in advertisements it’s as low as 1 in 200. Later, I consider the obvious rejoinder that Kang Don-won and Kim Tae-hee were primarily chosen for their celebrity status, discussing why 65% of Korean advertisements feature celebrities, whereas it’s only 10% in most other developed countries. Finally, there’s also the concept of “Licensed Withdrawal” to mention, one aspect of which is how men are often shown providing virtual shields for women.

Bearing all that in mind, what does this Samsung SHW-A210S Shape Phone on the right remind you of (source), released back in November 2010? Specifically, the side, which according to Samsung is a particularly attractive feature of the model?

S-lines Will Sell Anything

What? You didn’t guess Uee (유이) of the girl-group After School (애프터스쿨)? Well, clearly that must be your own fault, as Samsung not only said it’s specifically designed to look like her profile (source), but this and this blogger agree.

Perhaps these screenshots from the phone’s promotional website will help:

(Source)

Alas, Samsung was really just attempting to capitalize on Uee’s star power, and on men’s interest in seeing and women’s interest in having an “S-line” (again, the copy makes that explicit). Lest we forget though, that actually means a great set of tits and ass, and it’s testament to the saturation of the term in Korean advertising and popular-culture that Samsung could get away with linking it to a completely unrelated inanimate object.

But that’s not the main reason I’m highlighting the phone here – after all, it’s by no means the first time the S-line has been used to sell one. The Wondergirls (원더걸스), for instance, did so back in 2008:

Instead, what makes this advertising campaign stand out is because on the one hand, Samsung is taking advantage of one body label to sell something, but on the other it’s attempting to replace that label a new one of its own creation – the yoptae (옆태), or “profile”.

The Invention Process

Actually, the campaign starts quite innocently, with Uee simply sketching profiles of things, finishing by announcing that it’s now “The Age of the Profile”. Later on in the campaign, visitors to the website would be encouraged to submit their own sketches and photographs in a competition:

(Source)

But not before viewers were show which kind of profile the campaign was really focused on. Skip ahead to 0:40 for fashion tips on how to show it off:

Next, Men’s Health cover model (source) and fledgling drama star (and friend of Rain!) Jung Sueng-kyo (정승교) is shown working on his own profile. And you’ve just got to hand it to Samsung for thinking of something that can be applied equally to men and women:

Instead of running with that equally-opportunity objectification though, we’re quickly back to women’s profiles. It’s difficult not to wonder if advertisers are just a little too used to using women’s bodies sometimes:

Context – The Profit Motive

Usually, when Korean body terms are explained to non-Korean audiences, then they’re made out as simple equivalents of English ones, the S-line and now profile substituting for the “hourglass figure” for example. But unlike that term, which I’d wager goes back to at least the infatuation with corsets in the 1800s, the S-line wasn’t even around when I came to Korea in 2000: jjookjjook-bbangbbang (쭉쭉빵빵) was used instead. Moreover, not only are so many invented these days that it’s difficult to keep track, but the pace and especially audaciousness with which this is done in Korea is nothing short of outstanding (source, below right).

(Update:  I may be mistaken about how old the hourglass term is –  Stuart and Elizabeth Ewen, for example, only mention the “Grecian Bend” in Channels of Desire: Mass Images and the Shaping of American Consciousness {1992; p. 75}. But surely it dates back to at least the 1950s?)

You are probably already familiar with the unbelievable example of the X-line for instance, which is literally only possible in Photoshop, but you may be surprised to also learn that companies are also constantly trying to get the public to redefine “established” terms too, lingerie company Vivian (비비안) hoping to make the V-line better known as the line between a women’s breasts rather than a triangular jaw (which Kwangdong Pharmaceutical sells – yes really –  “Corn Silk Tea” to help you obtain). On top of that, Yes’ (예스) lingerie company and W Magazine would rather have that area of a woman’s body known as a Y-line and W-line respectively…while in turn other companies still would rather have the Y-line mean a woman’s back.

And that alphabet soup is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to that competition for buzzwords and (re)definitions that will stick with consumers. But unfortunately there’s only so much I could fit on a Powerpoint slide!

Media Promotion

Of course, the media and Korean public are well aware of this – the combined image on the left of that slide is testament to that (I added the two on the right). But in my own experience, usually the latter finds the situation more humorous than concerning (a generalization I’d be very happy – but don’t expect – to be proven wrong), while the former merely “reports” on the new body labels (and others like “Gold Misses” – more abstract perhaps, but still very much designed to get women to buy things), only very rarely criticizing the process and/or its effects. In so doing, it serves to simply promote the term, whether that’s in direct collusion with the companies or otherwise.

Take, finally, this inane example from Star News, a transcript of which (from here) I’ve translated below. If you get confused by some of the dates mentioned in it, please note it was aired in November 2011:

스타 노출의 변화, 옆태가 뜬다? The way stars show off their bodies is changing, the “profile” look is now booming

[Y-Star] 스타들의 노출이 많아지면서 섹시한 앞태는 물론이고 일명 숨 막히는 뒷태라 불리며 신체의 뒤 라인이 주목을 받고는 했었는데요 이제 노출의 키워드는 바로 옆태가 됐다고 합니다. 새로운 섹시함의 상징, 옆태에 대해 <스타뉴스>가 알아봤습니다.

While stars have been showing a lot of skin recently, and of course people’s focus is on their sexy “front figures”, and most recently on their so-called breathtaking “back figures”, now a new body-revealing keyword is emerging – the profile. A new symbol of sexiness, Star News has investigated.

드라마 <브레인>를 통해 1년6개월여 만에 컴백을 알려 화제가 된 최정원.오랜만의 제작발표회에서 모습을 드러낸 것보다 더 화제가 된 것이 있습니다. 바로 옆태가 훤히 드러나는 파격 시스루 의상인데요

A year and half since her last acting role, Choi Jung-won has recently made a comeback in the drama Brain. At a press conference about it, the topic of how she looked was much more interesting than the drama itself, as she wore a striking see-through dress that was very revealing in profile.

[현장음: 최정원] 안녕하세요 <브레인>에서 지혜 역을 맡은 최정원입니다

[Choi Jung-won]: Hello everyone, I’m Choi Jung-won, and play the role of Ji-hyae in this drama.

(Source)

이날 최정원은 이번 시즌 트렌드인 토트 무늬가 가미된 블랙 원피스에 은빛의 과감한 킬힐과 우아한 헤어스타일을 더해 한층 성숙해진 매력을 과시했는데요

On the day of the press conference, Choi Jong-won showed off this season’s trend of a black one-piece with a jigsaw-like design; silvery, bold killer-heels; and had an elegant hairstyle, all of which combined to make to make her attractiveness all the more mature.

특히 옆태가 훤히 보이는 파격 시스루 원피스는 주위 시선을 사로잡으며 집중 플레쉬 세례를 받기도 했습니다

In particular, her profile, visible through her striking one-piece dress, received a lot of attention, getting lots of camera flashes.

이 아찔한 옆태노출패션은 작년 11월, 애프터스쿨의 유이가 선보이기도 했었는데요 일명 옆태폰이라 불리는 한 휴대폰 광고에서 보일 듯 말듯 옆태라인을 노출한 미니 드레스를 입고 옆태 댄스를 선보이기도 했었습니다

This dizzy profile-revealing fashion was also shown off by After School’s Uee last November, in a dance wearing a now-you-see-it-now-you-don’t revealing mini-skirt in a commercial for the so-called “Profile Phone” (source).

그리고 월드컵 축하공연을 위해 무대에 올랐던 포미닛의 현아는 붉은 악마 티셔츠의 옆 라인을 과감하게 자른 의상으로 파격적인 노출을 해서 화제가 되기도 했죠

Also, in a public performance to congratulate soccer World Cup players, 4Minute’s Hyuna appeared on stage in a Red Devil t-shirt with the side cut away,  so revealing that it became a hot topic (see below).

지난해 유이와 현아에 이어 올해는 최정원 뿐만 아니라 많은 여배우들이 옆태를 내세운 몸매로 시선을 끌기도 했습니다

Following Uee and Hyuna last year, many actresses have drawn attention to their bodies by showing off their profiles, not just Choi Yong-won.

지난 10월 6일 개막한 부산국제영화제에서 파격적인 노출 패션으로 화제를 모았던 신인배우 오인혜.

This October the 6th, new actress Oh In-hye’s exceptionally revealing dress at the opening ceremony of the Busan International Film Festival also became a hot issue.

어깨는 물론 가슴을 거의 드러낸 오렌지 빛 드레스를 입은 그녀는 가슴라인과 등 라인을 노출한 것은 물론이고 아슬아슬하게 비춰지는 옆 라인은 보는 이들의 입을 딱 벌어지게 하기도 했습니다

Of course the orange dress showed off her shoulders, and almost completely exposed her breasts, but it was how dangerous she looked in profile [James - i.e., how close it was to also showing her nipples] that had people’s mouths agape.

그런가하면 지난 7월 14일 열렸던 부천 국제 판타스틱영화제 개막식 현장에서 가장 화제가 됐던 배우 곽지민은 앞트임, 뒤트임에 이어 옆트임까지 노출 포인트를 모두 갖춘 무한 노출 패션을 선보였는데요

(Source)

Also, at the opening ceremony of the Bucheon Fantastic Film Festival on July 14th, the hottest topic was actress Kwak Ji-min’s outfit, which, being open at the front, back, and the side, revealed almost everything.

[인터뷰: 곽지민] 반응이 그렇게 뜨겁게 될 지는 상상도 못했어요. 학교에서 특히 반응이 굉장히 뜨겁더라고요

[Kwak Ji-min]: I could never have imagined the reaction would have been so intense. It was especially heated at [the?] school. [Kwak Ji-min is 27, so I don't know what school she's referring to. Is she referring to a festival venue? - James]

Update: Thanks to (native Korean) Grace in the comments, who clarifies that Kwak Ji-Min is “referring to how popular that image is among schoolboys, saying that the reactions were hot from schools, i.e. the kids in school.”

드라마<내 마음이 들리니>에서 발랄한 캔디녀로 사랑을 받았던 황정음. 지난 5월 공개했던 섹시화보 제작발표회에서 언뜻 보면 평범해 보이지만 옆라인에 반전이 있는 의상을 입어 눈길을 끌었는데요 슬쩍 보이는 상체 라인이 더 아찔했다는 평가를 받았습니다

Hwang Jung-eum has received much love for her role as a vibrant and active candygirl [James - I'm told this means a young woman who's cheerful and extroverted, especially someone who overcomes some kind of adversity] in the drama Can You Hear my Heart.  In May, at a press conference for her new sexy photobook, at a glance she appeared to be wearing ordinary clothes, but if you looked closer you saw that she was wearing eye-catching ones that showed off her profile, making you think of her upper body in a new light [James - see here for my translation of a blogger's thoughts on how such "exposure" affects her career].

이어 지난 7월 한 패션매거진 화보를 공개한 윤은혜는 옆 라인을 살려 상의를 탈의하고 손으로 가슴부위를 감싸 안은 파격적인 포즈로 화제가 되었죠 그리고 상체 위주의 옆태 라인을 강조하던 다른 스타와는 달리 하체 옆 라인을 과시하며 아찔한 각선미를 보여 주기도 했습니다

In July, Yoon Eun-hye became a hot topic by showing off her profile in a photoshoot for a fashion magazine, undressing her upper body and embracing herself, covering her breast with her hand. Unlike other stars that emphasize the top half of their profiles, Yoon Eun-hye mostly shows off the bottom half of hers.

이렇게 과감하게 옆 라인을 노출해 제대로 된 S라인을 뽐내는 스타들이 많았는데요 새롭게 떠오른 노출의 키워드 옆태! 적정한 선을 지킨 옆태 노출로 진정한 아름다움을 뽐내길 바랍니다.

There are now many stars that have been showing off their well-made S-lines through boldly exposing their profiles like this, making “profile” the new exposure keyword! But let us hope that nobody overdoes it, only showing off sincere beauty by exposing their profiles (end).

(Source)

If you were confused by the second to last paragraph, then you weren’t the only one: as is clear from the image above (seen in the video), Yoon Eun-hye’s photoshoot was actually in October, and the other pictures can only be said to emphasize the bottom half of her profile (alas, not her bottom itself) in that her legs are physically longer than the upper half of her body. But speaking of Yoon Eun-hye, and to end on a positive note, by no means does all the above imply that Korean celebrities feel compelled to show off every new body term out there, nor – if they do decide to – that they can’t exploit them for their own ends, and/or simply to feel sexy. For much more on that, please see here!

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

Reading The Lolita Effect in South Korea, Part 3: A Wave of Middle School Girls Wearing Make-up…Is it all Girl Groups’ Fault?

(Source)

It’s such a struggle being a feminist parent.

I have two daughters: Alice, born in June 2006, and Elizabeth, born in August 2008. Fortunately, Elizabeth at least is just fine in the girl-power department, and is “second-sex” to no-one. Rather, it’s sex that comes a far-distant second to catering to her demands 24/7, but let’s not go there.

Alice however, will regularly stroll down the toy aisle at the supermarket, and loudly proclaim that she doesn’t like the black and blue cars and trucks on one side because “they’re for boys”, to which I’ll have to gently remind her – yet again – that she actually has many she regularly plays with at home. She’s also started constantly posing and asking if she’s pretty, and it’s honestly starting to feel tiresome, almost pedantic to always reply “Yes, and strong and smart too!”.

This literally came to a head yesterday morning when she used those smarts to look for the clip-on earrings that her well-meaning but misguided kindergarten had given her for Children’s Day, eventually devising an elaborate system of stools and chairs to climb to the top of the chest of drawers and see if we’d hidden them there. Very proud of herself for finding them, she jumped on my face at 6:00am to wake me up and show them off (source, right).

I didn’t scold her though (at least not for the earrings), as nothing could faze me after seeing what had been done to the poor girls that grace Sonyunara.com (소녀나라; “Maiden Country”), which I’d found the night before while researching this post. Seriously, just take a look for yourself.

But in just a few years, will Alice and then Elizabeth also be among the alleged wave of middle and even elementary school students spending 30 minutes a day applying makeup? Hell no. But will they want to? Probably. Is that a bad thing? That depends. And why are so many students doing it now in particular?

All questions to bear in mind as you read the following story from The Chosunilbo below.^^ Found via Asian Correspondent, it was the second most read “society story” on Naver last week:

[오늘의 세상] 초등생까지 화장 열풍… 학교, 두 손 들었다

[Today's World] Even Elementary Schools Raise Hands in Surrender at Wave of Students Using Make-up…

지나친 ‘얼짱 신드롬’… ‘걸그룹’들이 큰 영향 줘… 등교시간에도 30분씩 화장 / Excessive “Best-Face Syndrome”…Girl groups’ big influence…Even at school, spending 30 minutes at a time applying cosmetics

학칙 있으나마나… 화장하는 아이들 워낙 많아… 쉬는 시간 화장실은 파우더룸 / Whether or not there’s school regulations…Children are putting far too much on…In break times, the toilets become powder rooms

식약청의 경고… “어린이들은 피부 약해 트러블 생길 위험 크다”/ The Korean FDA warns…”Children’s skin is weak, and there is a big danger of problems developing”

“그 틴트(입술에 색을 내는 화장품의 일종) 나도 발라 볼래” / “Let me put on that tint too (tint: a kind of cosmetic that gives color to lips)”
“와~오렌지색 되게 예쁘다” / “Wow~the orange is really pretty”

( Source. Discussed here)

경 남지역 여자 중학교에 근무하는 국어교사 김모(34)씨는 며칠 전 교실에 들어서자마자 한숨이 나왔다. 학생들이 각자 화장품 파우치(작은 가방)를 꺼내놓고 ‘신제품 품평회’를 벌이고 있었다. 한 학생의 파우치 속엔 파우더, BB크림, 틴트, 아이라이너, 마스카라, 매니큐어 등이 가득 들어 있었다.

A few days ago, Kim Mo, a 34 year-old Korean teacher at a middle school in Gyeongsang Nam-do, walked into a classroom and saw something that took her breath away. In the classroom, there were children with a makeup pouch each (a small bag) and had taken everything out of them to have a “new makeup show”. In one student’s case, her pouch had been full of such things as powder, BB Cream, tint, eyeliner, mascara, and a manicure set.

화장한 학생들 얼굴도 제각각이었다. 어떤 학생은 파우더를 발라 얼굴이 뽀얗고, 어떤 학생은 액(液)을 발라 쌍꺼풀을 만들고 아이라인까지 그렸다. 틴트를 발라 입술이 빨간 학생들도 여러 명이었다.

Of the students who had put the makeup on, their faces were all different. Some had used powder to make their faces milky-white, while some had used a liquid to give themselves double-eyelids, even going so far as to use eyeliner. Several had also applied tint to their mouths and now had red lips.

쉬는 시간이면 이 학교 화장실은 ‘파우더룸’으로 변한다. 10여명의 학생들이 거울 앞에서 머리를 만지거나 화장을 한다. 서로 눈썹이나 아이라인을 그려주는 것도 흔한 모습이다.

If it’s break time, the toilets change into powder-rooms. Around 10 students will gather in front of the mirror and fix their hair or apply cosmetics. Drawing eyebrows on each other with eyeliner is a common scene.

(Source)

김 교사도 처음엔 화장이 학칙에 위배되기 때문에 화장한 학생들이 눈에 띌 때마다 “화장을 하지 마라”고 했다. 클렌징폼을 건네주며 “당장 세수하고 오라”고 하기도 했다. 소지품을 검사해 화장품을 압수하기도 여러 번. 그래도 나아질 기미가 보이지 않자 요즘엔 “어린 나이에 화장하면 피부에 안 좋다”며 달래고 설득한다.

At first, Kim would tell students using cosmetics that they were against school rules, that they shouldn’t use them, and would immediately give them cleansing foam to clean the cosmetics off. She also checked to see if students had any cosmetics and would confiscate them if they did. As there was no sign of improvement however, then these days instead she tries to persuade them that “if you put on cosmetics when you’re young, then your skin won’t be good”.

김 교사는 “화장하는 애들이 워낙 많아 쫓아다니면서 일일이 지적하기도 힘들 정도”라며 “전쟁도 이런 전쟁이 없다”고 말했다.

Kim says “Chasing after students that use too much cosmetics while pointing out everything [that's bad about using cosmetics?] to them is so exhausting”, and that “it’s such a battle”.

학생들은 백화점 화장품 코너에서도 주요 고객으로 떠올랐고, 화장품 회사들은 인기 캐릭터를 그린 상품을 쏟아내고 있다.

Students have risen to become the main customers at cosmetics corners at department stores, and cosmetics companies are having popular [manhwa?] characters on their products.

화장 붐에 교사들 / Teachers Raise Their Hands in Despair at Cosmetics Boom

교사들은 “화장하는 학생이 한 반에 몇 명이라고 세기 힘들 정도”라고 말한다.

Teachers say “there’s so many students using makeup in each class, it’s difficult to count them all”.

서울의 한 중학교 1학년 담임교사는 “학생들끼리 마스카라나 아이라이너를 생일 선물로 주고받을 정도로 화장에 대한 관심이 많다”며 “초등학생 때부터 화장을 시작해 피부가 어른처럼 엉망인 애들이 갈수록 많아진다”고 말했다.

One homeroom teacher for a first-grade middle-school class [for students roughly 13-14 years old] said “Students are interested enough in mascara and eyeliner to give them to each other for birthday presents”, and that “There are many students that, starting to wear makeup in elementary school, are ruining their skin like adults”.

학 부모들은 걱정이다. 중학교 2학년 자녀를 둔 김순옥씨는 작년부터 딸아이가 각종 화장품을 사 모으는 것을 보고 깜짝 놀랐다. 김씨의 딸은 바쁜 등교시간에도 30분씩 스킨·로션 등 기초 화장품부터 BB크림, 파우더까지 정성껏 바른다. 김씨가 야단을 치며 화장을 못하게 했더니 딸은 “화장을 안 하면 부끄러워서 학교에 못 가겠다”고 반항했다. 김씨는 “딸아이가 사춘기여서 그러려니 했지만 공부에 대한 집중력이 떨어지는 것 같아서 걱정”이라고 말했다.

Parents of students are worried. Kim Soon-ok, a mother of a 2nd grade middle school student [14 or 15 years old], has been very surprised at how her daughter has been buying and collecting all kinds of makeup since last year. Despite being busy, every school day she spends 30 minutes at a time applying everything from toner, lotion, and other basic cosmetics to BB cream and powder. Kim says that she scolded her daughter to make her stop using it, but her daughter resisted and replied that “If I don’t wear makeup, I’ll be embarrassed and won’t be able to go to school”. She added that “although this sort of thing is natural for a girl entering puberty, I worry that her ability to concentrate on her studies is decreasing”.

(Source)

이처럼 학생들의 화장 문제가 심각해지자 얼마 전 식약청은 교육청과 학교에 색조 화장품 등의 사용을 자제하게 해달라는 요청문을 보내기도 했다. 식약청 화장품정책과 양준호 사무관은 “어린이들은 어른보다 피부가 약해 립스틱이나 매니큐어 등 색조 화장품을 사용하면 피부 트러블이 생길 수 있어 조심해야 한다”고 말했다.

Accordingly, the FDA sent schools and the Ministry of Education a letter requesting that they restrict student’s use of color make-up, and so on. Yang Jun-ho, and official within in the FDA’s Cosmetics Policy Department, said “Children’s skin is weaker than that of adults, and so if they use lipstick, manicures, or color makeup they have a [greater?] chance of skin problems developing, and should be careful”.

과도한 ‘얼짱 신드롬’ / Excessive “Best-Face Syndrome”

성적이 상위권이거나 모범적인 아이들이 화장하는 경우도 늘고 있다. 이처럼 학생들 사이에 화장이 널리 유행하는 현상에 대해 전문가들은 ‘얼짱 신드롬’과 10대 멤버들이 많은 ‘걸그룹’이 큰 영향을 미치고 있다고 분석한다. 건국대 이동혁 사범대 교수는 “요즘 10대들은 과거 세대보다 자신을 잘 포장해서 당당하게 드러내려고 하는 성향이 강하다”며 “그런 학생들의 특성이 외모를 중시하는 사회적 분위기와 어우러져 나타나는 현상 같다”고 말했다. 한국청소년활동진흥원 김용대 부장은 “예뻐지고 싶어하는 것은 사춘기 여학생들의 자연스러운 특징이지만 화장을 통해 자기만족을 추구하려는 청소년의 집단적 현상은 심각한 문제가 아닐 수 없다”고 말했다.

Even model students with high grades and rankings are increasingly using makeup. An expert on this phenomenon attributes this “beauty-face syndrome” to the influence of girl groups with members in their teens. Professor Lee Dong-hyuk of the Education Department of Konkuk University says “compared to past generations, these days social trends mean that teenagers attach a lot of importance to their appearance and want to show them off.” And Kim Young-dae, head of the Korea Youth Work Agency, says “it is a natural trait of female students entering adolescence to want to look pretty, but this mass of girls trying to find satisfaction and fulfillment through make up is a serious problem”.

Writer: 김연주 / Kim Yeon-ju – carol@chosun.com

(Source)

While the headline clearly exaggerates a little by mentioning elementary school students, only then to talk about middle school ones, that’s probably one of the better articles I’ve read in the notoriously tabloid Korean media (update: apparently that same tabloid media has considerably lowered my standards!^^). Is the popularity of makeup among students as recent as the article suggests though? Let’s discuss that in a moment. First, let’s see what Meenakshi Durham has to say about cosmetics in The Lolita Effect itself, the book that inspired this ongoing series (p. 126):

Studies have suggested that little girls enjoy emulating fashion trends, using makeup, and attracting boy’s attention by wearing skimpy clothes. In social settings where girls are not going to be penalized or targeted for these behaviors, it’s easy to see how these things could be completely harmless, fun, or even empowering. Clothing and makeup aren’t problematic.

While I wasn’t joking earlier about what I saw on Sonyunara, reading that the night before was the real reason I didn’t (visibly) react negatively to seeing my daughter wearing earrings: children are always going to emulate what they see adults and/or other role models doing. Rather, it’s how we adults react to that that is the problem:

It’s the corollary assumption – that youth is sexy, that little girls are sexy, and that because of that they can be seen as having the same sexual awareness as adults – that’s of real concern. The problem is not with children, but with adults: with marketers who knowingly sell products and images with powerful sexual overtones to young girls, and with adults who then interpret girls’ bodies as sexually available. And there’s a larger, social problem, too, in that because of the increased sexualization of girlhood, children are engaging in sexual activity at younger and younger ages. This has fallout that is expensive both to the kids and to society as a whole.

(Source)

At first, that probably sounds much more relevant to the US and other Western countries than it does to “sexually conservative” Korea. But you may be surprised. Not so much that Korean children too are engaging in sexual activity at younger and younger ages of course, albeit not quite at the rates of their US counterparts, but rather that the Korean age of consent is 13 (see here then here), and that Korea has a huge teenage-prostitution problem, known as wonjo gyoje (원조 교제).

Moreover, not only is this exacerbated by the extremely low age of consent ensuring that many clients are not prosecuted, let alone teachers that have sexual relationships with their students, but until very recently, the Korean public – with important exceptions such as music columnist Kim Bong-hyeon and Professor Sooh-ah Kim at Seoul National University (see abstract below) –  was generally reluctant to acknowledge the increasing sexualization of particularly girl groups’ clothing and choreography in recent years, what effects that might have on teenagers, and, however indirectly and/or or marginally, on sustaining demand for the teenage-prostitution industry.

And if they were reluctant to discuss the music videos, then naturally there was a similar reluctance to discuss the same in ads featuring teenage members of girl groups:

(Source)

As discussed elsewhere, Korean entertainment companies have strong incentives to sexualize both girl and boy’s groups clothing and choreography in order to help them stand out from other groups, and they also have financial incentives for groups to endorse as many products as possible; in a symbiotic relationship, this naturally combines well and perpetuates the Korean advertising industry’s heavy reliance on the use of celebrities.  Consequently, not only does the number of ads featuring girl group members likely show a direct relationship to the proliferation of girl groups in recent years, but also they too are increasingly sexualized, and – crucially – naturally have messages that resonate with teenage girls. After all, this is the heart of the Lolita Effect: that especially cosmetic and fashion companies want younger and younger girls to embrace the notion that hypersexual body display and obtaining a narrowly defined physical ideal are at the core of – nay, the only things required for – social and romantic success, and that these can best be achieved through purchasing those companies’ products.

This logic, of course, is nothing new. But, if you can forgive my naivety, I’ll never cease to be amazed at the audacity at some of the ensuing advertisements. On the far left in the school uniform advertisement above for example (discussed in more detail here), Victoria of the group f(x) is praised for her height, thinness, and, well, large breasts and buttocks (all of which is contained in “쭉쭉빵빵”, the old term for “S-line“). Meanwhile, in another one further up the page (this one) fellow group member Sulli (17) says “Romance will start in a semester without pimples”, and in the video below that she proclaims the efficacy of using skincare products to get your man over other methods such as: getting cosmetic surgery to get double eyelids; working on getting shiny, billowing hair; or even getting an S-line.

Granted, correlation doesn’t mean causation, and one additional factor may be the considerable relaxing of many rules about school uniforms over the past decade (skirt lengths are 10-15cm shorter than in 2000 for example, which – sigh – the Korean Federation of Teachers Association says “can make students more vulnerable to crimes”). But…naah. Provided the report is accurate, then of course middle school girls are suddenly wearing make-up because all these girl groups are suddenly endorsing them. It would simply be a bizarre coincidence otherwise.

(Source: unknown)

What to do about it? Beyond educating children on the hows and whys of advertising and/or forcibly taking their cosmetics off them, I’m open to suggestions. One think I certainly don’t think will work though, is complaining to the companies themselves, which have a strong vested interest in making their products appeal to young girls as explained. Indeed, this was recently indirectly demonstrated by Iconix Entertainment, the producer of the very popular Korean cartoon Pororo the Little Penguin (뽀롱뽀롱 뽀로로) above, which, despite the pleas of Korean parents, besieged by their children demanding breads and cakes like those in the show, politely declined to depict the characters eating healthier meals (I believe the characters are also on all manner of junk foods). And God knows how they would have reacted to my own suggestion that pink Loopy above, the only female character in the first season, do something other than constantly make said breads and cakes for the boys.

For more on the trails and tribulations of being a feminist parent, then I recommend following Baby Gender Diary on Twitter here, in their own words “A Mother and Father. Tweeting about our 3 year old girl and 6 month old boy and how people treat them differently”, and/or purchasing Cinderalla Ate My Daughter by Peggy Orenstein, next in my own wishlist. Or, for more posts in the “Reading The Lolita Effect in Korea” series, please see below.

The “Reading the Lolita Effect in South Korea” series:

Gender Studies 101: How the media perpetuates negative body images

(Source)

Alas, I’m still taking a break from blogging for another week or so(!), so let me just quickly pass on a Korea Times article on “X-lines” and women’s body images that I’m quoted in today. New readers who want to learn more about them, please see:

  • Here for a quick summary of all the various “lines” used to describe women’s bodies at the moment
  • Here for a much longer analysis and a discussion of how and why they’ve developed from being mere fads to become enduring parts of Korean media culture
  • Here for the ways in which even prepubescent girls are socialized to develop a concern for achieving such lines in the future
  • Here for the deep roots this Alphabetization craze has in various Korean philosophical and linguistic traditions, rendering it qualitatively different to similar sounding name-assigning in English.
  • And finally here, here, and here for more on the fact that Korean women are the slimmest in the OECD, but still consume the most diet drugs.

Meanwhile, I’m very grateful to author Cathy Rose A. Garcia for asking for my input, and for then including so much of what I wrote in our email exchange. It seems almost churlish of me to critique it so severely after that, but I’m afraid I must, for it seems rather naive, almost disingenuous to write an article about how popular X-lines are when the only evidence for that comes from a company that has a vested interest in making people think so:

Three out of four female college students consider X-line, a term referring to a slim waist with ample breasts and hips, to be the ideal body shape, according to a survey by Amore Pacific’s V=B Program. The survey covered 1,000 female college students from Ewha Woman’s University and Dongduk Women’s University from May 13 and 17.

Granted, Cathy does mention later:

Amore Pacific’s V=B Program, which sponsored the survey of college students, offers a line of herbal Oriental beauty supplements. It recently introduced the “S-line slim DX,” which claims to reduce body fat and abdominal fat.

But the conflict of interest should have been made more explicit, and indeed is rather ironic in light of one of my quotes:

“Companies do have a vested interest in creating new, artificial body ideals that purchasing their products can supposedly help you achieve. And given the media’s overwhelmingly uncritical reporting and active dissemination of these ideals, then it is difficult not to conclude that the media is at least passively colluding with its advertisers in this regard,” Turnbull said.

Moreover, as I explain here, the X-line is by no means a “new” obsession of Korean women, but is at least 2 years old, originally created by – you guessed it - Amore Pacific, who created the monstrosity on a computer when Yoon Eun-hye’s (윤은혜) actual body failed to deliver:

(Sources: left, right)

In fairness, Amore Pacific did use more human-like realistic images of her body in some of its advertisements for the V=B Program that year, but those in no way compensate for encouraging women to obtain a literally impossible body shape in the first place. And call me picky, but any news article on X-lines is severely remiss in not mentioning that.

What do you think? Are my critiques of the article fair?

Did Eve Have an S-line? Women as Walking Alphabets in South Korea

yoon-eun-hye-윤은혜-as-a-korean-eveUpdate, June 2014:

If you’ve followed a link to this post, thank you for your interest in Korean body-image and the alphabetization trend, but unfortunately(?) my opinions of both have changed considerably since I wrote this five years ago, so I decided to delete the original commentary (and the comments too sorry—but they no longer made any sense). Please see here, here, here, and here for more up to date readings instead.

For future reference though, I’ll keep my translation of the original Yahoo! Korea article which prompted it, especially as the original is no longer available. I hope readers may still find it useful one day:

(Image: Korean actress Yoon Eun-hye (source) and detail from Albrecht Dürer’s Adam and Eve (1507))

스타매력 재발견, 고은아 ‘가슴’-윤은혜 ‘어깨’ 최고 The Rediscovery of Stars’ Beauty

Go Eun-ah’s Breasts and Yun Eun-hye’s Shoulders are the Best

각종 시상식장의 레드카펫은 여배우들에게 좀더 특별하다. 숨겨둔 자신만의 매력을 한껏 과시할 수 있는 기회가 되기 때문이다. 덕분에 팬들은 그녀들의 아름다움에 숨은 매력까지 엿볼 수 있다. 얼마 전 열린 제45회 백상예술대상 시상식에서 고정된 이미지를 깨고 새로운 매력을 보여준 여배우가 있었다. 바로 고은아와 윤은혜이다..두 배우 모두 귀엽고 상큼한 이미지로 그동안 팬들의 사랑을 받아왔다. 하지만 어린 나이임에도 성숙한 상체 라인을 가진 고은아는 지금껏 풋풋했던 이미지를 벗고 ‘제2의 김혜수’라는 찬사를 받았다. 또 윤은혜는 쉽게 찾아볼 수 없었던 둥근 어깨 라인을 드러내 여성스러운 면모를 부각시켰다.

go-eun-ah-breasts-고은아-왕가슴As they are great opportunities to show off previously their previously hidden confidence and beauty, actresses look more and more glamorous on the red carpet at award ceremonies, and fans are eager to get a peek at their idols. A few days ago at the 45th Paeksang Arts Awards many actresses took the opportunity to throw off their old, established images and show off new sides to themselves, particularly Go Eun-ah (right, source) and Yoon Eun-hye. Both were previously well known and popular for their cute and sweet images, but despite her youth Go Eun-ah has become quite buxom, and has been described as the second Kim Hye-su. Also on this occasion, Yoon Eun-hye showed her new womanly side by revealing her round shoulders for the first time.

백상예술대상 레드카펫을 밟은 고은아는 가슴이 깊게 파인 옐로우 슬리브리스 드레스로 플래시 세레를 받았다. 산뜻한 컬러와 과감한 가슴 노출로 다소 쌀쌀한 날씨에도 불구하고 봄의 여신으로 매력을 뽐냈다. 무엇보다 기존 10대 이미지를 과감하게 벗어 던진 그녀는 이제 여성미와 섹시미를 겸비한 여배우로 신고식을 치른 셈이다.

Once Go Eun-ah stepped onto the red carpet she was seen to be wearing a very low-cut sleeveless dress, and was instantly bathed in the flashlights of hundreds of cameras. The bright dress and her boldness in wearing something so revealing, despite the slightly chilly weather, made her seem almost goddess-like. Moreover, she has completely lost her image of a teenager, and has made a big splash as a beautiful and sexy female actress.

고은아의 가장 큰 매력은 레드카펫의 여왕이라 불리며 늘 섹시하고 파격적인 의상으로 화제를 불러 일으킨 대한민국 대표 섹시스타 김혜수를 연상케 하는 상체 라인이다. C 컵 이상의 풍만한 가슴과 글래머러스한 몸매, 그럼에도 선명하게 도드라지는 쇄골이 김혜수와 매우 닮았다. 이는 한국에서 쉽게 찾아볼 수 없었던 우월한 가슴라인으로 ‘제2의 김혜수’라는 극찬이 아깝지 않을 정도. 게다가 고은아는 키 171cm로 170cm의 김혜수에 뒤지지 않는 신체조건을 가졌다. 압구정 에비뉴 성형외과 이백권 원장은 “김혜수와 고은아의 공통점은 넓은 어깨와 C컵 이상의 풍만한 가슴선 등 건강하고 서구적인 체형이다”며 “속옷의 종류에 따라 차이가 있겠지만 두 사람 모두 상부가 불룩한 속칭 윗볼록이 있는 가슴을 가지고 있다”고 말했다.

kim-hye-su 김혜수

Go Eun-ah’s most attractive point is her breasts, which remind people of Korean sex-symbol Kim Hye-su (left, source), who regularly wears very revealing clothes at awards ceremonies and is known as the “Queen of the Red Carpet.” Despite the large size of their busts, you can distinctly see both collarbones, and they’re even the same height too. Such a combination is not often found among Korean women, and so because this is so rare people are not embarrassed to regularly praise her as the second Kim Hye-soo. According to Apgujeong Avenue cosmetic surgeon Lee Baek-gwon, “Kim Hye-su and Go Eun-ah’s points in common are their high collarbones, their C-cup (or bigger) breasts, and their healthy Western body shape” and “although they may wear different brands of underwear, they will both be for women who are top-heavy.”

또 다른 화제의 인물 윤은혜는 그 동안 드라마 ‘커피프린스 1호점’과 ‘궁’ 등에서 보여준 중성적이고 발랄한 모습과 다르게 푸른 색 미니 튜브탑을 통해 어깨라인과 각선미를 드러내면서 보다 여성스러운 모습을 과시했다. 특히 윤은혜의 둥근 어깨라인은 16세기 유화 ‘아담과 이브'(알브레히트 뒤러)에 나오는 이브의 어깨라인과 닮아 고전적인 여성미를 보여주었다는 평이다. 이브 이외에 ‘비너스의 탄생'(산드로 보티첼리)에서 비너스의 어깨라인은 물론 15-16세기 명화 속에 등장하는 아름다운 여성들의 체형적 특징 중 하나인 어깨가 매우 흡사해 고전적인 여성의 아름다움을 느끼게 한다. 압구정 에비뉴 성형외과 이백권 원장은 “승모근이 발달한 윤은혜의 어깨는 약간 좁으면서 전체적으로 둥근 느낌을 주며 통통해 보여 여성스러운 느낌을 준다”며 “16세기 서구에서는 이런 곡선이 잘 살려진 몸매를 아름다운 여성의 표준으로 보았다”고 설명했다. 전체적으로 통통하면서 힙 등에 보기 좋게 살집이 있는 윤은혜의 몸매가 서양의 고전적인 아름다움에 가깝다는 것이다. 기존 드라마에서 보여주지 않았던 섹시하거나 우아한 여성스러운 몸매를 백상예술대상 레드카펫에서 공개한 고은아와 윤은혜의 다음 번 레드카펫이 사뭇 기대된다.

botticelli-the-birth-of-venusAn actress also getting attention recently is Yoon Eun-hye, who has been in the dramas “The First Shop of Coffee Prince” and “Princess Hours” but who looked rather androgynous and/or tomboyish in both,  showed off her shoulders and legs in a blue mini tube top. Especially, Yoon Eun-hye’s round shoulders were very similar to Eve’s in a 16th Century oil painting “Adam and Eve” by Albrecht Dürer, a well-known symbol with which to evaluate female beauty. Apart from Eve, other symbols used as such have been Venus in “The Birth of Venus” by Sandro Botticelli (1482, above), and she has a remarkable resemblance to the former. Lee Baek-gwon says “On the whole, while the muscle development around Yoon Eun-hye’s shoulders is a little narrow, its roundness give her a very feminine and woman-like appearance” and also that “in the West in the 16th Century, this type of well-developed curve was considered the beauty standard”. And so while a little chubby, her hips and so on are very close to that standard. These two women didn’t previously show this sexy side to themselves in the dramas they appeared in, but people now have high expectations for their next appearance on the red carpet! (end)