Korean Sociological Image #20: Sex Sells

Yahoo Korea Cheoum Cheorom Cool UEE

Pity the hapless commentator on hidden themes in advertising. Not only is he or she often accused of overanalysis, but men in particular can be labeled as positively perverted in seeing sexual symbols in otherwise inanimate objects.

Granted, sometimes a bottle is just a bottle, and Cheoum Cheoreom Cool (처음처럼 쿨), a new brand of soju, is not the only commercial to have an animated example of its product moving across the screen below it on Yahoo! Korea at the moment. But I do wonder why the bottle is tilted the way it is though, particularly as the long-held convention in Korean alcohol advertising is that bottles should always be displayed standing upright?

As it happens, that convention is still adhered to on Cheoum Cheoreom Cool’s website, but with the soju bottle springing-up in a most satisfying manner in the corner of the screen once you click on the “over 19” button. That wasn’t the case when I wrote about its marketing campaign last month.

Naturally, I don’t think it’s a coincidence.

But I’m not against this latest twist per se, and indeed this advertisement for bokbunja (복분자) below with a similar theme still puts a smile on my face 4 months after first noticing it (see here for more like it). And yet Cheoum Cheoreom Cool’s version isn’t quite so, well, elegant, and smacks of desperation given that the campaign already so excessively focuses on female body parts. Perhaps like Lee Hyori before her, UEE (유이) isn’t bringing Lotte the increased market share anticipated?

Phallic Bokbunja advertisement( Source: Jinro )

Thanks to reader “JSK Hanglo” for bringing the commercial to my attention.

Update: See here for some similar phallic symbolism from the latest New Yorker.

(For all posts in my Korean Sociological Images series, see here)


26 thoughts on “Korean Sociological Image #20: Sex Sells

  1. The 처음처럼 ads have been playing on screens in my subway station for a while now. The woman in the ad is just grinding and thrusting and shakin’ it like there’s no tomorrow.


    1. Yes, in Busan too: throw the internet and TV into the mix, and it’s almost impossible to avoid at the moment.

      I find the dancing a bit mechanical myself though, but I’ll have to wait until tonight to link to posts of mine and especially Brian in Jeollanam-do’s that elaborate further on that sorry: I’ve just got 5 minutes free at work at the moment.


      1. Found the ad on Youtube I think…

        Everything seems mechanical…when she stops to talk us, I feel like a robot is speaking to me.


  2. I am tolerant of sexual content in advertising, but one thing I find degrading is any image suggesting the penetration of a woman with an object, particularly something potentially harmful like a glass bottle.


    1. Hmmm…that raises a point I hadn’t considered: many sociological and/or feminist blogs that I subscribe to (especially American ones) would probably have prefaced such images with a warning for the sake of people possibly offended and/or made upset by the images, particularly rape victims. It’s something I should pay more attention to in future.

      I disagree that either advertisement suggests penetrating a woman with a foreign object though…I can assure you that what the phallic object actually is in such advertisements is usually the furtherest thing from my mind, and I’d wager the vast majority of other men’s also.


      1. I wasn’t able to view the video with the moving bottle, so I interpreted from your description and the still image that insertion was suggested.

        There’s nothing graphic about a bottle dancing near a woman’s behind. If US feminist blogs are posting warnings, then I think they are being way too sensitive. The content of blogs like yours, by nature, includes offensive images. Offensive is not the same as graphic.


        1. There’s nothing graphic about a bottle dancing near a woman’s behind. If US feminist blogs are posting warnings, then I think they are being way too sensitive.

          I would say it depends on how many people you can persuade to follow the narrative being presented. They may be “too sensitive”, but then that depends on how many people agree with said sentiment. That of course says nothing about normative claims.


        2. Sorry for any confusion Whatsonthemenu: the bottle simply moves from the left to the right of the commercial, then repeats.

          Right Said Fred…

          I would say it depends on how many people you can persuade to follow the narrative being presented. They may be “too sensitive”, but then that depends on how many people agree with said sentiment. That of course says nothing about normative claims.

          Hmmm, so whether or not the American feminist blogs are being too sensitive or not depends on how many people agree with that statement or not? Thank you for that penetrating insight.

          Dude, have you ever, perchance, noticed the name of this blog? I have more than a passing familiarity with deconstructivism and postmodernism, and, with limits, recognize that there is much insight to be gained from critically analyzing and deconstructing the methodology and ideological constructs we bring to any sociological analysis. I have yet to do so from any of your numerous comments on various posts of mine however, which uniformly seem to be either statements of the obvious (above), meaningless phrases couched in buzzwords a freshman only just beginning study of the subject might find impressive (“That of course says nothing about normative claims”), or alternatively simply broad, open-ended questions, but without ever seeming inclined to offer any answers to them. And don’t get me started on those instances where you provide all 3.

          Hence, while other readers are free to do so, like Gomushin Girl, I’m simply not personally going to bother replying to any of your comments in the future I’m afraid. Doing so just feels too reminiscent of talking to one of those inane computer programs from the 1980s (“How do you feel?…”Bad”…”What do you mean by ‘bad’?” etc.), and I’ve got better things to do with my time.


          1. Thanks for your reply.

            I am uncertain as to the tone of your comment, but if it is meant to dissuade me from posting comments here in the future, then thank you for your moral support.

            You state: Thank you for that penetrating insight.

            I am not hear to provide a penetrating insight, er, that would be too penetrative of me. But seriously, I am not here to provide “answers”, but I do find posing questions a legitimate form of communication to a faceless audience (as would any blogger).

            Analysis, particularly those that are meant to analyze or situate a culture of lived experience often leads to further questions. I am surely learning with the rest of the people that read this blog. However, I have no answers to give. How can I? What / Who would qualify me?

            I find this post an interesting counterpoint to this blog:
            “Born David Aldwinckle in California, Debito Arudou’s basic enterprise is as flawed as Marxy’s. He wants to steamroller Japan into accepting him as Japanese by means of that most un-Japanese measure, litigation. In other words, he wants to be wholly Japanese without ceasing to be wholly American. He will become Japanese by changing Japan’s definitions of Japaneseness to something more like America’s definitions of Americanness, using American techniques relying on American framings of the problem.” source: http://imomus.livejournal.com/308507.html

            Thank you for your response and attention.


  3. I don’t know how to say this but than to say it any other way. So I will say it…if the bottle was so sexual wouldn’t it be tilted the other way and coming towards the front of the woman? I didn’t think…ummm…. “going in the backdoor” was a thing in Korea.


    1. The commercial was made over a month ago: the bottle was only very recently grafted on to it so to speak. And I think having it going from left to right across the screen, like people read, is much more natural.

      If anal intercourse is all that the commercial brings to mind then I suggest that you use your imagination a little more (and/or…well…expand your own repertoire) but that’s irrelevant: the (phallic) bottle just needs to be pointed at her pelvic region to produce a sexual image in people’s minds. Something much more anatomically correct and/or resembling an actual sexual position though, then I’d probably have the same objections that Whatsonthemenu did, and ultimately it would detract from the advertisers’ desired effect.


      1. If the bottle needed to be pointed at a woman’s behind to create a phallic image, then it is precisely the suggestion of penetration that gives the bottle a phallic quality. Simply putting the bottle on the table wouldn’t do.


        1. Hrm… James did say that the mere pointing of the bottle towards a woman’s pelvic region (not just behind) is enough to conjure phallic imagery. But, not that it is necessary as he clearly means in the post he linked to me here: https://thegrandnarrative.wordpress.com/2009/06/07/soju-advertisements/ (relevant picture at the bottom of the post)

          I was beginning to wonder if I’m not just seeing things because of the implications suggested here. And, even though the upright bottle observation did fit with all examples I could remember, I did a quick search of popular beverage brands just to take a look for myself. It confirmed my thoughts that bottles are indeed shown upright unless held in a drinking pose, which is relatively innocuous. But, it also led me to this example which…stuck out rather sorely. http://cafe.naver.com/d2d2d2.cafe?iframe_url=/ArticleRead.nhn%3Farticleid=1307786


          1. Whether or not the bottle is pointed at the frontside or the backside of the pelvis, the very fact that it is pointed towards the pelvis suggests potential penetration.


      2. LOL, I guess I saw an early version of said commercial or I just wasn’t paying attention. I only saw the bottle in picture you showed above. More so than other things the commercial brings to mind how terrible dances can be in these advertisements.


    2. Pointing at the behind suggests not only anal sex but also doggie style. The ad makers probably thought pointing to the backside would be less obvious.


  4. Recognizing sex in advertising surely isn’t the sign of a perverted mind but an observant one.

    I wonder, though, if this is a bit of an overanalysis. Maybe the graphics designer got a little pervy/mischievous and slipped it past the brass. :)


    1. Thanks. But I confess, it’s just the fly-by-night trolls that say such things really.

      As for this case…nah, the rather uncharacteristic lean of the soju bottle simply can’t be coincidence: see here for a similar example with a different drink (discussion at the bottom of this post), albeit one exclusively aimed at women.


  5. Sorry to go off topic here but ,What do you think about American Republicans(conservaties) vs Liberals ?

    do you support or agree with republicans or conservatives more ?

    Have a nice day Sir .


  6. In America Republicans and Liberals hate each others guts so much.
    Is New Zeland ,Austaralia or Engalnd the same way ?

    I am very curious ..


  7. I try not to go off topic anymore . I read all your articles ,and they are deep and very informative . You’re extremely intelligent and educated .Wish i was as smart /intelligent as you are !!!

    and about sex sells ,its sure does .Here in US its like sexual paradise .Almost all celebs here have sex tapes ..ex: Paris Hilton ,Kim Kardashian ,Pamela Anderson and others ..
    Its just insane .I consider my self liberal , but its just too much for me sometimes ..
    its human phyche that wants something forbiden and primal ..

    Anyway ,good luck ..and have a nice day Sir !


  8. Iam basically in middle .I consider myself nether conservative republcan or truely liberal .
    Little bit leaning on liberal side ,but still not yet 100 % liberal !!

    Good luck ..


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