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On the face of it, Park Ji-sung (박지성) is a very logical choice to endorse any given Korean company’s products or services. After all, he is easily Korea’s most popular male sports star at the moment, he (naturally) has a good body, and he is so successful that he has even published an autobiography already. Accordingly he has dozens of advertising deals to his name, and – to place his popularity into context – via his numerous Korean fans’ choices of credit cards he has more than financially compensated Manchester United for the loss of David Beckham for instance. Presumably then, Gillette Korea thought it was on to a good thing when it belatedly decided to join his bandwagon.
Nevertheless, while it’s not like I can claim to being all that photogenic myself, Park Ji-sung is actually a *cough* less than inspired choice, and at the very least advertisements like the above probably stretch consumers’ senses of disbelief just a little too far, if they don’t put off Korean men from using Gillette products altogether! If you haven’t already figured out why, then photos like this, this, this and this may help, and as Roboseyo points out, it’s not just because of her own sudden popularity that Korean companies started signing deals en masse with ice-skater Kim Yu-na (김연아) last year.
Update: Which brings up the side issue that Korean celebrities are notorious for being unconcerned about diluting their own personal brands, but so far this doesn’t appear to have been the case with either Park Ji-sung or Kim Yu-na.
Of course, photoshopping is by no means a recent phenomenon or unique to Korean advertisers, although it’s also true that extreme examples like Amore Pacific’s recent attempt to get women to aspire to a – by definition impossible – photoshopped “X-line” body ideal may well be very hard to find in other countries. With that in mind, I’m always interested in the extent to which Koreans are aware* of the level of photoshopping that occurs in advertisements and their opinions of it, but as I and many commenters have already talked about photoshopping on numerous occasions on the blog already (here’s a very small sample!), then rather than merely rehashing old points here, instead let me ask you how well you think Gillette’s ads will do, what your Korean friends, lovers and/or colleagues think of it, and what they think of photoshopping in general? Commenter Seamus Walsh’s female friends for instance, told him a little while ago that:
…they all were aware of the altering of photos that goes on…but that it is generally ignored because they know the models are attractive anyway, and that they look good after photoshopping, so that’s all that matters. Basically, despite knowing an image isn’t a true representation, they would rather have the altered image. I just wonder if this means that their ideals of beauty are based on the reality or the unnatural and unattainable?
Me too. But how representative are those opinions of average Koreans’ in turn? Please let me know!
* Not to imply that your average Korean consumer is any less intelligent than your average Western one with that statement, but having said that, on the other hand I’m not going to lie and pretend that somehow the Korean education system encourages the same level of critical thinking either.
(For all posts in the “Korean Sociological Image” series, see here)