Resources on Evolving Korean Ideals of Male Beauty

(Source: Laneíge)

As long-term readers will (hopefully) recall, in my last major post in this series I put forward the hypothesis that an increasingly feminized ideal of Korean male beauty was not a mere import of foreign notions of metrosexuality, as is often claimed, but more the result of a subconscious or deliberate act of defiance by Korean women, angered at being the first to lose their jobs during the economic crisis of the late-1990s. Given that these small inroads into Korean business had been only recently made too, Korean feminism very much taking a back-seat to the wider goals of the democratization movement previously, then it’s not unreasonable to suppose that Korean women would have angrily rejected their previous ideals of men as strong, masculine providers in response, particularly as the male-dominated government and media chose to urge them to support their hardworking fathers and husbands rather than air their complaints.

Unfortunately, there is not quite the same level of academic interest in evolving Korean ideals of men’s beauty as there is in women’s…*cough*…and in the case of English-language studies of Korean men especially I suspect that I’m entering into almost completely uncharted territory.

But in addition to some that I linked to that earlier post, one more English resource that I did find recently was a paper titled “Dual Dominating Strategies of the Korean Hegemonic Masculinity: Advertisements for Men’s Cosmetics” by Park Seung-min, downloadable here. If the title gives you misgivings however, then so it should, for unfortunately it badly needs a major rewrite by a native speaker, preferably one with some background in social sciences too; at the very least, simple terms should have been chosen over rather abstract academic ones which even specialists disagree on the precise meanings of. Otherwise you end up with ditties like this:

According to R. Barthes, creating any meaning of the advertising goes through two stages in the process of action in its meaning. The first stage is a process representing things with symbols, having the denotative meanings. Since the expression of one symbol only has the content of one symbol, the symbol merely has ‘monosemic meaning’ in the action of meaning at the first stage…

But the paper’s images of advertisements from 1970-2006 alone make it worth viewing, and despite everything it is still possible to follow, something which can’t be said of a great deal I’ve read on postmodernism that that passage is reminiscent of. Meanwhile, to add my own contribution, here is my translation of an article from the July edition of Korea Ad Times (코리아애드타임즈) about a recent commercial for men’s sunblock:

라네즈 옴므 ‘선블록 로션’ 편: 그루밍족을 위한 스타일리쉬 선블록

Laneíge Homme ‘Sunblock Lotion’: Stylish Sunblock for Men Concerned about Personal Grooming

‘자외선은 피부의 적’ 이라는 사실은 누구나 알고 있을 것이다. 자외선의 UVB파장은 진피층의 콜라겐과 엘라스틴 파괴시키고 색소 침착을 증가 시키기 때문.

Everybody knows that UV rays are the enemy of youthful-looking skin. This is because the UVB ray components of it destroy the collagen and the elastin in the dermis layer and increase the amount of pigment.

피부 노화의 주범이 자외선이라는 사실이 밝혀지면서 여름은 물론 사시사철 자외선 차단제의 중요성이 강조되고 있다. 하지만 남성들은 끈적이고 바르면 하얗게 뭉쳐 귀찮아서라는 이유는 선블록을 평소에는 바르지 않는다.

Ultraviolet rays are the main cause of aging of the skin, and people are beginning to realize the importance of using sunblock all year round. But men ordinarily don’t wear it, as they don’t like its sticky, greasy feeling or the fact that it tends to clump together in white lumps.

선블록은 단지 야외에서 운동할 때 여름 휴가 때 겨울의 스키장에서만 바르는 특수한 용도의 화장품이라고 여기고 있기 때문이다. 남성들의 이런 생각 때문에 남성 피부는 항상 자외선에 무비방 상태로 놓여있다.

Men tend to think of sunblock as something only to be used when exercising or traveling in the summer or skiing in winter, and so normally their skin has no protection at all against the sun.

하지만 이런 남성들 사이에도 변화의 바람이 불기 시작했다. 바로 ‘그루밍족’의 탄생이다. 이는 몸을 칭찬한다는 뜻의 ‘Groom’에서 나온 말로 패션과 미용에 아낌없이 투자하는 남성을 지칭한다. 이러한 그루밍족을 위해 탄생한 라네즈 옴므, 라네즈 옴므에서 제안하는 피부관리의 첫단계는 바로 ‘선블록’ 이다.

But men are changing their attitudes, and some are prepared to invest a lot of time and money in their appearance, becoming known as “Groomers” by advertisers. Laneíge Homme’s “Sunblock Lotion” is specifically designed for this new group, and advises men that sunblock is the essential first step in adequate skincare.

갈색으로 그을린 구릿빛 피부는 보기에는 멋지고 건강해 보이지만 실제로는 자외선에 의해 피부가 손상됐을 가능성이 높다. 이 CF는 이점에 착안, 스타일을 생각한다면 스킨과 로션 후, 손질를 마무리하는 단계에서 자외선을 차단하면서 피부톤까지 살려주는 라네즈 옴므 선블록 로션을 잊지 말아야 한다는 것을 강조한다.

Brown skin may look attractive and healthy, but it actually means that the possibility of it being damaged by the sun is very high. This commercial draws attention to this, and also emphasizes that you should not forget to apply the product after applying skin lotion and toner.

라네즈 옴므 선블록 로션TVCF는 ‘스타일리쉬’ 그 자체라고 할 수 있다. 심플하고 모던한 실내 세트장은 그 압도적인 규모뿐 아니라 브라운관들로 이루어진 천정이 눈길을 끈다. 모던한 세트장과 조화를 이루는 절제된 소품들은 고급스러움을 한층 더하고 있다.

Laneíge Homme’s new commercial is very stylish. The simple and modern room interior it was shot in is not just big, but viewers’ eyes are drawn to the ceiling, which has many TV monitors. The commercial has much finesse and many subtle points which combine to produce a high quality piece of work.

그루밍족을 위한 카리스마 강조, Emphasizing the Charisma of Groomers

무엇보다 ‘그루밍’ 의 워너비로 등장하는 배우 김지훈은 그만이 가진 세련된 실루엣과 카리스마로 남성뿐 아니라 여성들의 시선을 사조잡고 있다. 어두운 공간에 홀로 앉아 있는 멋진 남자와 천정에 설치된 작은 브라운관들에 남자의 다양한 표정들이 보여진다. 이 때 부라운관에서 자외선이 강렬하게 내리쬐며 남자를 비추고 강렬한 빛에도 당당한 모습을 잃지 않은 남자, 그의 손에는 라네즈 옴므 선블록 로션이 들려있다.

More than anything else, actor Kim Ji-hoon (김지훈) – Groomers’ ideal type – attracts the interest of both men and women with his charisma and stylishly-cut body shape. In the commercial, a man is sitting alone in a dark space and his various expressions are shown on the TV monitors. Then, on the TV monitors there’s a sudden strong flash of sunshine against him, but he still holds himself confident and strong against it, all the while holding a bottle of Laneíge Homme Sunblock Lotion.

내리쬐는 빛으로 점점 환해지는 실내, 자외선마저도 자유롭게 연출 할 수 있는 당당하고 스타일리쉬한 남자, 바로 모두가 꿈꾸는 진정한 ‘그루밍족’ 이 아닐까?

The sunshine gradually makes the room bright, but the stylish and confident man is unaffected by it and free to do as he wishes. He is the quintessential grooming man, the envy of consumers.

선블록 로션TVCF의 또 다른 매력은 바로BGM과 영상의 조화가 돋보인다는 점이다. 이번 광고를 위해 BGM이 특별히 제작했다. 젊은 남성 타겟의 취향을 고려하여 파워플하면서도 세련된 사운드가 돋보이는 Rock 스타일로 만들어진 것.

Another charm of this sunblock lotion commercial is that is in exceptional harmony with BGM’s background music. BGM produced the music especially for this commercial, and it has a powerful and sophisticated rock-style sound, in consideration of young men’s tastes.

이로써 TV CF의 하이라이트 부분과 BGM의 클라이막스가 완벽하게 맞아 떨어지면서 한층 임팩트 있는 광고가 됐다.

The climax of the music is in perfect synchronization with the climax of the commercial and combines to give a very powerful impact on viewers.

(A 2007 Laneíge Homme advertisement featuring Jo In-sung {조인성}, the first aimed at men.  Source: Laniege)

Perhaps not a great contribution sorry, and I really expected rather better from a 15,000 won specialist magazine; given how much my wife was laughing out loud at the original Korean version, then I’m not sure how I could have made it more natural-sounding in English either. On the other hand, at least I do now know about “Groomers”, whom I expect to hear much more about in Korean advertising literature in the future.