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:

Vodpod videos no longer available.

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

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Korean Sociological Image #6: How about a date with Lee Yeon-hee?

Lee Yeon-hee Oz Date

An otherwise innocuous, quick slice of Korean life…but which inadvertently prompted some soul-searching and a minor epiphany about Korean society on my part. Please bear with me!

If you’re reading this blog in Korea, then by virtue of its inane “We Live in OZ” catchphrase you’ve probably more aware of LG Telecom’s “OZ Generation” advertising campaign than most. But you may not have heard of its online virtual first person “date” with model and actress Lee Yeon-hee (이연희) that was launched about two weeks ago, and which deserves kudos for being the first of its kind in Korea (indeed, this post was originally intended to be #16 in my Creative Korean Advertisingseries). As Coolsmurf explains at allkpop here:

Users get to have a complete, enjoyable date with Lee Yeon Hee by completing 6 stages with varying difficulties, but all of which can be solved by using the LG mobile phone and your trusty keyboard. You get to hold the hands of Yeon Hee as you dash away from the crowd, ride a bus with her, have a meal, celebrate her birthday, etc.

And as of Saturday, 200,000 people had participated since it was released 10 days earlier, with 20,000 visitors daily. Unfortunately, and all too typically for Korea, the main site requires your national ID number to participate (I didn’t check if my “foreign” one worked or not sorry), but strangely this alternate entry site (in the screenshot below) doesn’t, which will hopefully give K-pop fans outside of Korea a chance to participate.

Lee Yeon-hee Oz Star Date Game

I confess, I did it myself for a little while: it’s like a surreal bubblegum version of Doom 3, with eye-candy as the target rather than demons. And my 3 year-old daughter sitting on my lap found it hilarious when I crashed into people and potholes while running to meet Yeon-hee in “Mission 1” (hint, use the cursors), but neither of us were sufficiently motivated to figure out how to rouse her after she fell asleep on the bus in Mission 2 though I’m afraid (but get on the bus using the mouse this time). Not for a fifth time at least…

But what epiphany about Korean society did this prompt on my part? Other than being reminded, say, of the penetration and pervasiveness of mobile phones into all elements of Korean life that is?

Well, consider the rather childish and platonic way the couple interacts on the “date” itself, replete with numerous uses of the word Oppa (오빠): to Western eyes it makes it appear more reminiscent of the sorts of dates we had – or perhaps, our parents liked to think we had? – back in our early teens, and certainly nothing like what most Western adults would consider worth showing up for. Lest you feel like that’s an exaggeration though, then by all means examine it for yourselves, but I’m sure that most people at all familiar with unmarried Koreans need no such assurances.

A Typical Korean Date

In the original version of this post, this prompted a lot of speculation on my part as to whether the date game was in fact primarily targeted towards teenagers, but that was misguided: as Charles points out in his comment that made me realize that, I myself went on “dates” like that with a 25 year-old Korean woman before I met my future wife, and although I haven’t dated in the 9 years since – and so by no means claim to be an expert on Korean dating culture – I’m confident that a sizable proportion of 20-something Koreans do have indeed have platonic dates like this. After all, the various cultural, social, and economic factors that lay behind the plethora of blind-dating systems in Korea certainly do still exist, although as Michael Hurt in this excellent practical guide to the cultural pitfalls of dating Korean women points out, the move from single-sex to mixed schooling is beginning to change those (see the KoreanClass101 Blog here also).

Lest I give the wrong impression though, I’m not against such dates per se. And while it’s true that I don’t personally consider dating without the ultimate aim of a sexual relationship as dating at all, that’s isn’t quite the same as thinking that, say, any woman that doesn’t sometimes put out on the first date (or guy that doesn’t want that) is a prude! And that so many Koreans go on such dates is – however patronizing it may sound – a very nice and endearing aspect of Korean society.

However, it is but one version of Korean dating culture. And yet while Koreans as a whole are certainly more sexually reserved than your generic Westerners, I doubt that any readers need convincing of the fact that over 50% of Koreans have sexual experiences before marriage. Yet- and herein lies the (belated) beginning of my epiphany – why is it only the platonic version of dating that is still overwhelmingly presented in the Korean media? And particularly when depictions of so many other aspects of sexuality in the Korean media are becoming increasingly bolder and more liberal over time?

Girls' Generation... Korean Teens are Sweet and Innocent

True, if you take issue with my description of the way dating is depicted in the Korean media, then I have no data to back that up: indeed, I don’t watch Korean dramas precisely because on the rare occasions I’ve naively wanted to spend more than 5 minutes with my wife on the sofa while she’s watching one, then I’ve soon been forced to leave the room at sheer disgust and incredulity with the surreal, Disneyland version of Korean life presented on the TV screen. Still, as commentators on this lengthy post on that subject pointed out, there are more realistic and palatable dramas out there if you’re prepared to look for them.

Also, granted: the ways dating and premarital sex are depicted in the Korean media are in many respects quite separate to, say, the censorship issues that I’ve been following closely in my weekly(ish) Korean Gender Readerposts. But still, rather than censorship being akin to some inexorable fact of nature (i.e. Korea is a conservative country…what else does one expect?), the numerous forward and backward steps in Korea just this year has provided me with a healthy reminder that what is considered suitable for Korean viewers is in reality a very mutable concept (and don’t get me started on Japanese censorship issues). Which begs the question of who is doing the defining, and why.

This brought to mind the following lesson I learned from An Introduction to Japanese Society by Yoshio Sugimoto (and easily the first book you should ever read on the subject):

Japanese culture, like the cultures of other complex societies, comprises a multitude of subcultures. Some are dominant, powerful, and controlling, and form core subcultures in given dimensions. Examples are the management subculture in the occupational dimension, the large corporation subculture in the firm size dimension, the male subculture in the gender dimension, and the Tokyo subculture in the regional dimension. Other subcultures are more subordinate, subservient, or marginal, and may be called the peripheral subcultures. Some examples are the part-time worker subculture, the small business subculture, the female subculture, and the rural subculture.

Core subcultures have ideological capital to define the normative framework of society. Even though the lifetime employment and the company-first dogma associated with the large corporation subculture apply to less than a quarter of the workforce, that part of the population has provided a role model which all workers are expected to follow, putting their companies ahead of their individual interests…. (p. 12).

yellow-salaryman

Yes, Japan, supposedly the land of the faceless salaryman…is anything but. And yes, the subject of salarymen may seem a little out of place at first glance, but I’m sure you’re seeing the connections already. Continuing in the same vein (although as a quick aside, it’s interesting to consider why Japan is so well-known for the salaryman system, when if fact it’s only Korea that ever had them as a majority of workers):

Dominating in the upper echelons of society, core subcultural groups are able to control the educational curriculum, influence the mass media, and prevail in the areas of publishing and publicity. They outshine their peripheral counterparts in establishing their modes of life and expectations in the national domain and presenting their subcultures as the national culture. The samurai spirit, the kamikaze vigor, and the soul of the Yamato race, which some male groups may have as part of the dominant subculture of men, are promoted as presenting Japan’s national culture….

More generally, the slanted views of Japan’s totality tend to reproduce because writers, readers, and editors of publications on the general characteristics of Japanese society belong to the core subcultural sphere. Sharing their subcultural base, they conceptualize and hypothesize in a similar way, confirm their portrayal of Japan between themselves, and rarely seek outside confirmation….(pp. 12-13).

As another aside, this last point highlights how Koreans are in many senses shooting themselves in the foot by alienating and demonizing a whole generation of English teachers in Korea (see here, here, and here):

Core subcultural groups overshadow those on the periphery in inter-cultural transactions too. Foreign visitors to Japan, who shape the images of Japan in their own countries, interact more intensely with core subcultural groups than with peripheral ones. In cultural exchange programs, Japanese who have houses, good salaries, and university educations predominate among the host families, language trainers, and introducers of Japanese culture…(p. 13)

(Update: See here for some quick recent examples of how different the Japanese are to the way they’re normally represented in the foreign media)

No, I’m not suggesting that there is a big conspiracy to keep premarital sex off Korean screens. Nor am I suggesting that the above is all that original or profound, and certainly my ultimate epiphany – merely to extend the above lesson to depictions of Korean dating and premarital sex in the Korean media also – is much less so.

But the point that I want you to take away from all this is that at the very least it provides an interesting and useful alternate framework with which to analyze the topic in future. For instance, the completely ineffectual Youth Protection Committee’s (of the Ministry for Health, Welfare and Family Affairs) recent banning of music group TVXQ’s latest songs from being played on TV and the radio because of “lewd content” and the need to “protect teenagers” (see #2 here), may be most explicable in terms of corporatist motivations, or in other words be the result of the Ministry’s struggle for relevance and definition under the hostile Lee Myung-bak Administration, which originally planned to disband the former Ministry of Gender Equality and Family altogether (now a separate Ministry of Gender Equality exists: see #4 here), and despite the compromise being opposed by all ministries involved. No, I’m not saying that that is the case necessarily, just that it’s a possibility that needs to be considered.

And on that note, I’d better end this post, which has admittedly somewhat evolved from its ostensible original topic. Which reminds me, presumably other male and female members of the “OZ Generation” in the advertisements will have similar dates set up for them, and it’ll be interesting seeing the different conventions for the former’s behavior and writing about that a later date. And probably this topic will be in IM AD (아이엠 애드) also (Korea’s only magazine devoted to online advertising), and I’ll make sure to buy it and translate the corresponding article also. In the meantime, I’m curious as to if this virtual date has already been done overseas, so if any readers know of foreign examples then please pass them on.

Image sources: first & second, third, fourth, last.

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

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Choi Jin-sil Sued For Being Beaten by Her Husband: Update

Choi Jin-sil holding back tearsWhen hearing last week about something as appalling as an actress being sued for daring to show her bruises and black eyes to the media, it’s only human nature to assume the worst of Korean society.

But while Korea certainly does have a great deal of work to do in combating domestic violence—and criminalizing spousal rape would be an essential first step (see #2 here)—it’s also true that police and legal attitudes towards it have considerably hardened in recent years, both cause and effect of a law change in 2007 that requires police to forward all cases of domestic violence to a prosecutor (the previous 1998 law just left it up to their own discretion). In addition, Korean women are now more likely than ever to divorce on the basis of verbal or physical abuse, rather than suffering silently as in past decades.

Indeed, what stands out more than anything else about the court decision is how much it goes against the grain of trends within Korean society, and certainly does not reflect the will of all Koreans. Some quick excerpts from today’s Korea Times for instance:

Women’s groups are angry over the top court’s ruling that ordered the late actress Choi Jin-sil (최진실) to compensate a builder for failing to maintain “dignity” as a model representing its products.

They censured the Supreme Court for not realizing the suffering of domestic violence victims, which included Choi.

Korean Womenlink, the Korea Women’s Hot Line, and the Korea Women’s Association United issued a joint statement Wednesday lambasting the ruling.

On June 4, the court reversed a high court ruling that decided in favor of Choi in a compensation suit filed by Shinhan Engineering and Construction in 2004 against the actress, who was the model for its apartments.

The advertiser claims she did not keep her contractual obligation to “maintain dignity,” because she disclosed to the public her bruised and swollen face which was caused by the violence of her then husband, former baseball player Cho Sung-min. They divorced soon afterward.

For the rest, see here. Also, see here for my original post on this issue and information about similar cases in the past, and here for a quick primer on the numerical rates of domestic violence in Korea (albeit in 2004), with many graphs and tables.

(By the way, although it was already common knowledge, it’s good that the Korean media is now naming the company. But I wonder if it was originally kept anonymous by a court order, or just by convention?)

Gay Pride Festival and Parade in Seoul This Saturday

Korean Queer Parade 2009 SeoulUpdate: I may discuss it in more detail in a later post, but in the meantime a big thanks to Chris in South Korea for this post about attending the event.

A little confused by the first ever “Stonewall Celebrations” being held in other Korean cities at the same time (see #5 here), I didn’t realize that the 10th Korea Queer Culture Festival has also been taking place in Seoul sorry, and is actually almost over. I can tell you before it’s too late though, that there will be a festival and parade this Saturday: for further details, see this English page of the festival website, or alternatively contact one of the posters in this thread at Dave’s ESL Cafe (or ask me to PM them if you’re not a member already).

Being unemployed and with two kids to support then I can’t make the trip to Seoul myself unfortunately, but I’d appreciate it if anyone can send me links to blog posts and pictures and so on afterwards.

(Poster from here, which also has a Korean timetable of events)

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Korean Gender Reader

Cute Gu Hae-seon and Jo In-seong

1. Chinese Women Becoming More Expensive…

Back in April, I wrote this post on recent research that had finally provided hard data on the extent of the skewed sex-ratio in China, which showed that in 2005 there were 32 million more Chinese boys under the age of 20 than girls. And like virtually every commentator who has ever imagined a world with a scarcity of women – Robert A. Heinlein comes to mind – I had assumed that it would mean that women would be able to command a suitably high marriage price, to contract for favorable marriage conditions, and/or that it would usher in a veritable watershed in men’s behavior towards women. In reaction to this report on the somewhat predictable phenomenon of scams targeting particularly rural bachelors’ families saving more money for brides though, Kenneth Anderson at the (rather hard to categorize) Volokh Conspiracy blog has drawn on his Mormon upbringing to provide a unique perspective on what is occurring to the status of Chinese women. An excerpt:

Exposure to the wider world…has left me persuaded that abstract libertarianism must sometimes give way to the realities of cultures and actual conditions. My view today is that – drawing on conversations with Nicholas Eberstadt in which he noted that he, too, had read Heinlein – it was far more historically common, and almost certainly the more common direction of things today, that in a world with scarcity of women – especially in a world of scarcity of females and yet a cultural preference for male births – the result would be increased treatment of women as property. More valuable property, yes, but increasingly as property precisely as the perception of its value increased.

Chinese One Child Policy Poster 1986 Zhou Yuwei

The authors of Bare Branches have noted that a surplus of males unable to find mates is the social equivalent of plural marriage in which a single male has exclusive reproductive access to multiple wives. The effect is to create, as in China, India, and other places with similar cultural patterns combined with modern technology, the imbalance in the sexes. Again, my moderate libertarianism gives way to social realities – no doubt informed by my Mormon upbringing, which left me on the one hand the least offended person in the world by the idea of polygamy, but on the other hand a very detailed understanding of what it means in practice, for women but also for surplus men and boys. Indeed, there is a very good and persuasive paper by Thom Brooks arguing – contra Martha Nussbaum and others – that a society of multiple wives and a single husband is inherently and necessarily an inegalitarian one.

Among many other things, see the (much longer) original post for a link to that paper by Brooks (emphases in original).

2. AIDS Cases in Korea

Korean AIDS HIV Poster

Adding to those I mentioned in February (see #10 here), for some recent statistics and links to further analysis see Brian in Jeollanam-do here, who also briefly discusses the contradictions between advertising free AIDS tests to foreigners when a positive result can mean instant deportation.

Like I’ve already discussed here, but worth mentioning again because it’s so important, it was through listening to a Korean radio report back in 2005 that I realized that the vast majority of Koreans no longer think that they’re are no homosexual people in Korea, nor – considering that 99% of Korean cases were infected through sexual intercourse – that AIDS is a “gay disease.” I don’t mean to sound patronizing, but if that comes as a surprise, then don’t worry – it was to me too – and if you think about it you’ll probably realize that you never actually heard a Korean person say them; rather, you heard them from other, non-Korean speaking expats and/ or English-language books or magazines about Korea, the latter of which tend to get outdated very quickly in such a rapidly changing society as Korea.

And then you’ll realize that the same goes for a lot of things about Korea…it’s quite a sobering experience, or at least it was for me. Apologies if I’m projecting a little here though!

(In my brief survey of Korean AIDS/HIV awareness posters while finding the above image by the way, all of those I saw were tasteful and/or a little abstract like the above. Personally though, like experience with those for smoking suggests, I think the more graphic and explicit the better, either by showing terminally-ill patients, or by making strong negative associations with the act of having sex without a condom itself {see here, here, here, here, and here}. From *cough* experience, anything else is just too abstract to remember and/or care about in the heat of the moment)

OUT205283383. Korea’s Most Beautiful Men and Women

With a nod to the sorts of things most people actually read on my blog, here is a rare list provided by photographers at Movieweek rather than by netizens.

4. Number of “Harmful” Korean Web Sites Decreases for the First Time

The title of this Korea Times report is self-explanatory, but if you didn’t know it, much more interesting is Korea’s dubious high-ranking in this league:

There are about 3.45 million sites worldwide that contain sex, violence, gambling and other offensive material, 230,000 more than at the end of last year, with 1,500 to 2,000 new sites generated every day, KT said.

English sites accounted for about 1.99 million of the disturbing online destinations, or 57.6 percent, followed by the 490,000 Chinese sites, which accounted for 14.3 percent.

Korean sites, which accounted for 11 percent, came in third, relieved of its second-place position of last year, followed by the 360,000 German sites and the 80,000 Japanese sites.

More than 98 percent of those identified contained sexually explicit content, KT officials said, while gambling sites accounted for 1.62 percent and violent and “grotesque” sites combined for 0.05 percent.

“Although the decrease in the total number of sites is encouraging, this doesn’t exactly mean that the users of these sites have declined by the same rate as well,” said a KT spokesman.

I’m not surprised by the ranking of English and Chinese sites (although I’m sure it means English-language sites), but (98 percent of) 11 per cent of all pornography sites in the world are Korean? You don’t need to have spent a long time in Korea to realize that it’s by no means the conservative society it’s portrayed as in the foreign media, but still…

5. First Korean Astronaut Speaks on Women in Korean Society

Like Korea Beat says, unfortunately it was a very brief interview, but this does give a flavor of what she said. If you’ve never heard of Yi So-yeon (이소연) before though, first read Scribblings of the Metropolitician here and here on the incredible amount of criticism and negativity with which she and her achievement were received because of her replacing the original, male candidate.

6. How to Get Koreans More Interested in Foreign Culture

the reader nudity

It’s a little old, but if you’ve been following these Korean Gender Reader posts for a little while then you’ll know that I’m very interested in censorship issues in Korea, and the mechanisms by which the Korean media is slowly but surely being liberalized. One way, according to Korea Pop Wars, is a prime example of desperation being the mother of invention, as – outside of film festivals – there is unfortunately almost no market for non-mainstream foreign films in Korea, regardless of how popular they have been overseas or how many awards they have received. Consequently, local film promotion companies are focusing on any instances of nudity in them…and with immediate and enthusiastic responses!

7. Korean Women’s Skin Whitening

Lest you feel I’ve already mentioned this subject often enough, this Malaysian(!) reporter was also amazed at the extreme lengths Korean women will go to to have light skin.

8. The Korean Female Cutsie Act

Typical Korean Cutsie Act

Like Tony Hellman says:

I’ve noticed for some time that some Korean women have a tendency to talk in a high voice and have a kind of coquettish, childlike way about them. Often enough for me to to recognize a pattern. So I talked to a couple people and got some perspectives. I have a good friend who is a Korean-American woman, who explained it thusly…

See here for that explanation, and Gord Sellar’s posts here and here remain very good for putting it into a wider context.

9. Update on Domestic Violence in Taiwan

One of the longest recent news reports I’ve ever seen on the subject is available at The China Post here.  See #2 here for more links on Taiwan and Japan and Korea also.

10. Effects of the New Lay Judge (Jury) System on Sex-Crime Victims in Japan

With relevance to Korea, that is also experimenting with using juries in trials. See In Absentia here for more (via Global Voices).

11. Global Links…

Faith Hill Photoshopped Cover

As this has already been probably the least Korea-specific “Korean” Feminist Reader post that I’ve ever written, then I may as well pass on some recent stories that are only indirectly related to Korea, but which I’d be surprised if readers that have gotten this far wouldn’t still find interesting:

– Re: the above image(s), this New York Times article discusses the increasing backlash against the excessive levels of photoshopping done on especially women’s bodies in the media. And see here for an hilarious annotated guide to the changes above.

– With parallels to attempts to create a market from scratch for deodorant and men’s cosmetics in Korea, this post from Sociological Images discusses Philips attempt to create a trend for the other 50 per cent of the market to trim their pubic hair.

– And finally, with obvious relevance to Japanese and Korean social norms of virtually sexless marriages after having children (this is not an exaggeration), this report from the New York Times (again) demonstrates that married couples that have sex frequently are more likely to report being happy in their marriages and less likely to divorce. Who’d have thought it?

Related is this not entirely whimsical article from Esquire on determining whether you love your spouse or not.

( Image Sources: first, second, third-unknown, fourth, fifth, sixth, final )

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Gender and The Unwritten Rules of Korean Alcohol Advertisements

Phallic Bokbunja advertisement( Source )

Prompted by my recent post on an advertisement selling soju to women, which I misinterpreted the details if not the spirit of (no pun intended) because I was too lazy to translate the voiceover first, I’ll be using Korean sources as much as possible in my analyses of Korean advertisements  from now on. Unfortunately, judging by its absence in bookstores and its website not being updated, then the only specialist magazine on offline Korean advertising I used to use for that – Korea Ad Times (코리아애드타임즈) – folded back in March, and Korean-language internet sources (on any subject) are notorious for their vacuousness and poor quality writing.

This Maeil Economy (MK) report that I’ve translated below is no exception, and as I pay much more attention to what readers might actually find interesting these days than I did a year ago, when admittedly I used to post just about any tabloid trash I’d translated, then normally I’d reject posting this. But – lest that honesty put you off reading further – I did still learn a couple of things from this one, especially from the last paragraph:

소주광고의 법칙…모델은 만 18세이상의 여자: 포스터 우측 하단에 소주병

The Rules of Soju Advertisements: models have to be over 18, and there has to be a soju bottle in the lower right corner of the poster.

Son Dam-bi Charmsoju Advertisement

( Source )

모델 나이 제한을 비롯해 이래저래 제약이 많은 소주 광고엔 공식이 있다.

Beginning with restrictions on the minimum age of models used, there are many de facto rules to the standard formula used in soju advertisements.

소주 광고의 가장 기본적인 공식은 최고의 인기를 누리고 있는 여자 연예인을 모델로 기용하는 것. 현재 진로 참이슬은 하지원, 진로 제이는 신민아, 롯데주류 처음처럼은 이효리, 보해 잎새주는 백지영과 모델 계약을 맺었다.

The first is that female models that enjoy the highest popularity are hired. Currently, Ha Ji-won models for Chamisul (James: taking over from Son Dam-bi above), Shin Min-a for Jinro, Lee Hyori for Lotte’s “Like the first time,” and Baek Ji-young for Bohae’s yipsejoo.

이는 소주라는 제품 특성상 남성 소비자 비중이 70%를 넘고, 소주를 자주 찾는 남성층이 여성 모델을 선호하기 때문이다. 소주 판매에서 가장 주축이 되는 소비자는 20~30대 남성층. 인기 있는 여성 모델이 소주 광고모델을 하면 이들의 호응을 얻을 수 있다. 이와 함께 깨끗하고 순한 이미지를 강조하고자 하는 업체들의 요구도 강하다. 과거 독한 술로 여겨지던 소주가 최근 알코올 도수를 낮춰서다. 이 같은 이유로 웬만하면 소주 광고는 여성 모델을 기용하고 있다.

As 70 per cent of soju drinkers are men, primarily in their twenties and thirties, then female models are preferred, and popular female entertainers always get the best response from this group. Also, soju companies demand a clean a pure image be emphasized in advertisements. Finally, the alcohol content of  soju is going down. For all these reasons, women are used in soju advertisements.

하지만 최근 저도주 경쟁에 따라 남성을 모델로 기용하는 사례도 찾아볼 수 있다.

Gang Dong-won Soju AdvertisementHowever, as there is increasingly a market for weaker soju drinks, then you can increasingly find male models being used.

20대 여성을 타깃으로 삼은 대선주조의 `봄봄`은 강동원을 모델로 썼다. 봄봄은 알코올 도수가 16.7도로 국내에서 시판 중인 소주 중 가장 낮다. 젊은 여성들을 주된 소비자로 삼다보니 여성들 사이에서 인기가 많은 모델 강동원을 택한 것이다. 대선주조는 대학생 1000여 명을 봄봄 개발에 참여시켰고, 그중에서도 여성들의 입맛에 초점을 맞췄다.

For Daesun’s “Spring Spring” brand of soju, at 16.7 per cent the weakest soju on the domestic market, Gang Dong-won was used to target female consumers in their twenties (source). He was the first choice of 1000 female university students that were used to help develop the brand by participating in a survey on how they found its taste.

소주업계 관계자는 “최근 알코올 도수를 낮춘 소주가 출시되는 것은 여성들을 소주시장에 끌어들이기 위한 것”이라며 “이에 따라 여성만 광고모델로 쓰던 관행도 변하는 추세”라고 설명했다.

An industry insider explained that “recently soju drinks with lower alcohol contents have been released in order to attract female consumers, and accordingly we are changing the convention that only women should be used in soju advertisements.”

소주잔은 반드시 오른손으로 들어야 한다는 것이 두 번째 공식이다. 우리나라에서는 술잔을 왼손에 들고 받는 것은 술을 따라주는 사람에게 실례로 여기기 때문에 모델이 왼손잡이라고 하더라도 반드시 오른손으로 들어야 한다. 또 소주병은 포스터 오른쪽 하단에 똑바로 서 있어야 한다. 이는 주류회사들의 오래된 관행인데, 소주병 자체가 바로 제조회사를 상징하므로 소주병이 기울어져 있으면 사세가 기운다고 여기기 때문이다. 모델이 들고 있지 않은 상태에서 가장 잘 보이면서 광고 전체의 분위기를 깨지 않는 곳이 오른쪽 하단이다.

That soju glasses have to be held in the right hand without fail is another unwritten rule of soju advertisements, as in Korea it is impolite to a person offering the alcohol to receive it in left hand, even if one is left-handed. Also, on soju advertisements the soju bottle itself must be standing, as it is a symbol of the company, and if it is leaning then similarly the fortunes of the company will decline. Finally, if the model is not holding the bottle but it is standing in the bottom-right corner, then it does not detract from the advertisement’s sense of atmosphere.

There are many exceptions to the above rules of course, but now that I’m aware of them, then a quick survey shows that the vast majority of soju advertisements do indeed follow those conventions. Needless to say though, while most advertisements are not as explicit as the opening one for in this “bokboonja” (복분자) here, the use of a bottle as a phallic symbol is by far the most important consideration in virtually any drink advertisement, and it’s difficult to take seriously any analysis of one that doesn’t mention that. Nor one that wouldn’t mention what the shape below is supposed to represent either, which I was interested to learn is called a “yonic” symbol:

Yonic Bokbunja advertisement( Source )

And speaking of women, while I won’t give this subject the attention it deserves here (perhaps next week), also interesting is that I’ve noticed that it is alcohol advertisements targeted towards women that are more likely to break those conventions, which by no means apply only to soju. A good example is this one below (more here) for Jinro’s “maehwasu” (매화수) drink with 14 per cent alcohol, clearly targeted exclusively at women, and one wonders at the logic behind both the flowers and pastel colors and Jinro’s belief that such a vastly different marketing approach was warranted. More often than not these are more indicative of advertisers’ stereotypes and prejudices than any empirical evidence that gendered advertising actually works, at least in the case of broadly similar products marketed to both sexes (cosmetics are possibly one exception though).

maehwasu gendered advertisement( Source )

On a final note, I can’t resist mention of the maehwasu website, for what do you find literally popping up and extending in the bottom left corner of the screen when you visit, to the obvious delight of the three women next to it? It would be interesting to listen to a company representative or advertiser try to explain a non-sexual reason for that particular exception to the rules…

Phallic Maehwasu Screenshot

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