Korean Sociological Image #25 – Women: Apologize to your Bottoms!


After all, even actress Oh Yoon-ah (오윤아) does. Or at least according to the black text in the advertisement above.

It also proclaims that her buttocks are worthy of being described as part of a “쭉쭉빵빵” figure, so presumably the logic is that she needs the product being advertised to maintain that figure, with apologies to her buttocks for having used different methods previously.

Yet that’s based on the assumption that, in Korea too, it is a legal requirement for endorsers of products to have already used or be using what they’re advertising. But perhaps that would be applying too much logic here:

Compelling viewing for sure. But then Applehip Korea is essentially arguing that sitting on your ass all day is all you need to get “apple hips” (애플힙) like those of the women above, so possibly the aim of the commercial is more to distract you from that non-sequitur?

To be more precise, at least two hours of sitting in the seat a day are necessary according to this Korean “news” article, preferably with three uses of the massage function. See here and here for instructions, and all yours for a mere 338,000 won (US$288)!

Of course, by no means is South Korea the only country in the world where essentially useless exercise equipment is sold, and the seat may well improve one’s posture. But as this Korean source (refreshingly) laments, while Korean women’s interest in their appearance is excessively high, their interest in exercise is very limited. Indeed the entire beauty, diet, and exercise industries here are predicated on a widespread belief that obtaining the perfect body is possible provided one merely buys and passively uses, applies or digests various products.

Lest that sound like exaggeration, see here and here for further examples and links to studies providing empirical evidence. And, unfortunately, because of a loophole in legislation regarding “health-related” products specifically, there is little to prevent Korean advertisers continuing to make such absurd claims of their products.

On a final note, did anyone else find having a guy standing with a sign saying “Women! Apologize to your bottoms!” a little creepy? How about several of them, standing on a street with placards and a shopping cart full of apples?

Update: Not really related — the buttock-dancing in the commercials is not as much of a jump for Korea as it may at first appear — but the commercials instantly reminded of these ones from Reebok that have created so much controversy in the US recently. For those of you unfamiliar with them, see the ensuing discussion here, here, and here.

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

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20 thoughts on “Korean Sociological Image #25 – Women: Apologize to your Bottoms!

  1. I’m surprised, James, that you missed the fact apple bottoms is a slang term (possibly only north american?) for a female with a large, round, butt… I was really amused that the product substituted the word bottom in the idiom for hip, the word my students often mistakenly use to refer to their bums. The idiom is well-known enough that there’s even a brand of blue-jeans named apple-bottoms.

    the slang term: http://www.urbandictionary.com/define.php?term=apple+bottoms
    the product line: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Apple_Bottoms


    1. I think it is just North American slang actually, or perhaps I think that because of my nearly 10 years away from NZ? Can any other readers clarify?

      Not that I couldn’t figure out what it meant though(!), but I stuck to “hips” because that’s what the Korean says, even though its based on a mistaken translation.

      By the way, my own 20-something students have the same surprise when I tell them that “hip” doesn’t mean “bottom,” even the advanced ones, so I think it’s universal. Given Koreans’ proclivity for using English for everything, no matter how incorrect and/or misguided, then that particular mistake is probably likely to remain for quite a few generations yet!


      1. Actually Asians (i am Malaysian) would consider apple bottom (or hips?), as Roboseyo suggests, is referring to female’s big round butt. I am surprised by this Apple hip product when I watch the ad until the end. Initially I assumed it is warning the ladies not to turn their bottoms into apple hips. Sorry my English is not that good, hope you understand what I mean here :)

        Btw, James, yesterday my friend and I just talked about how male-dominant the Korean society is. The situation is to the extend the other Asian ladies cannot understand how does the system work—no Korean ladies or local NGO stand up and protest over the sexist, insulting remarks by an ad with a guy holding a sign saying “Women! Apologize to your bottoms!”?


        1. No need to apologize for your English, and thanks for commenting!

          I agree that it is strange that there are no Korean women or NGOs protesting about the advertisement. Part of the reason i think is because – in addition to the myriad of other discriminatory elements of Korean society – gender studies as an academic discipline is comparatively underdeveloped here, with little trickledown into wider public awareness as it were.

          (Edit, many years later: I was quite…well, completely wrong about gender studies in Korean academia. But I would still maintain that there’s relatively little public awareness of the issues and debates etc. contained therein).

          But I do find more and more Korean discussion of gender issues and so forth as my Korean ability gets better (see here and here for recent examples), and I concede that I may simply be looking in the wrong places. I’ll keep trying!


      2. i believe the original term ‘apple bottom’ started as an American term before gaining popularity worldwide thanks to the jeans and some rap songs.

        [James, November 2013 — Unfortunately, the post in the original link has been removed, and I was unable to find duplicates. The replacement link only has pictures of the men doing the promotion].

        re: the guys with the signs. i do find that both creepy and offensive but the effect is somewhat lessened by the women around them. the third picture in the link shows two women dressed quite formally in blue skirts. it looks as though they are part of the campaign though i can’t be sure. their presence sort of lessens the negative effect for me.


        1. Thanks. I’m still not sure about in Australasia though…will ask my NZ-based sister tomorrow!

          Unfortunately, I’m pretty sure that all the women in the pictures are passers-by really, and especially the formally-dressed ones, who are probably just en route to or from the business they work at. I admit that its a bit unclear though.

          In hindsight, it’s simply bizarre that they have that guy in the commercial and in this promotion really. It’s on a par with the male voiceover in the Reebok ads…straight after the talking breasts(!).

          Loved your post on The Sighting of ‘You-knows’ by the way. I’m hoping to restart my “Korean Gender Reader” posts next month, and that’ll be story #1!^^

          p.s. Which reminds me: please start adding social-bookmarking buttons to your posts! Grrr…


          1. you’re welcome! please do let me know what your sister has to say. i assumed it was popular because everyone my age regardless of nationality seems to be listening (and singing along) to rap/hip hop music. i do agree that its bizarre and i wonder what must have happened in the boardroom before it got released. i mean what were brainstormers/advertisers/marketers thinking?

            thank you so much! i’ve been an avid follower of your Korean Gender Reader posts, i was a long time reader before i had the ‘courage’ to delurk and leave a comment thus i’m absolutely flattered you’ve decided to include my post.

            lol, i’ve got no idea how to add social-bookmarking buttons to my post. wait a second, i think i do…i’ll give it a go as soon as i figure it out.


  2. James, excellent work. I’ve always wondered—but haven’t paid enough attention to—how the backside is used in Korea, and whether it’s considered something attractive or comical. In my dissertation research thus far I’ve only found (a) obsession with poop and putting things in the bum, and (b) various booty dances incomplete because of the lack of a booty. Exhibits A, B, C.

    In all seriousness, it’s an interesting topic, the way the rump is viewed in Korea, and whether it’s considered something capable of being sexual, or if people here are just imitating that rendering from stuff they’ve seen coming out of the west. The overuse of “sexydances” and backing it up makes me think the latter.


    1. Thanks. Unfortunately, I wish I really was joking when I say that because of said scholarship, you’re the first thing I think of when I see Korean woman’s backsides!

      Yes, I know, maybe I need to get away from the computer more…

      But you really do raise a perky pertinent point when you question how the rump is viewed in Korea. After all, after your good self, the second thing I thought of when I watched the commercial was how blatantly sexual it was, but how I wouldn’t be surprised if the manufacturers of the product or television companies (if it was allowed on TV?) completely denied that element to it. Which in turn reminded me of similar denials of the sexual elements to the Wondergirls’ and Girls’ Generations dances and advertisements and so on (or any other adolescents for that matter) simply because they were teenagers. And so on.


  3. From the 1st advert I don’t particularly like the phrase “명품몸매” – it translates either as designer body or something like up-market body. certainly would seem to fit with what you (James) said about playing on people’s desire to just buy themselves a particular body without the work that’s a scientific requirement.

    It’s always puzzled me why celebrities in Korea don’t try and show off more how much actual exercise they do (although this is more women than men), because I’m sure a lot of the “singers” in particular must spend a lot of time staying in shape to do all that “dancing”. That wasn’t meant to sound sarcastic, although I know it might read that way! I just think they probably spend hours each week dancing and in the gym to get the look their managers want and to keep up with their dance moves, then go and make adverts making it look like all they do is drink some watery tea – they’re not doing themselves any favours.


    1. Quite right, on both counts, and thanks for pointing them out. Especially that about female celebrities exercising and/or dancing to achieve their great bodies, only then to endorse useless products like this one. I was especially dismayed by the Brown Eyed Girls (브라운아이드걸스), responsible for this very cool dance, endorsing Juvis Diet (쥬비스 다이어트) recently, whom I lambasted for this “make your legs like chopsticks” ad back in May.


    1. Hmmm…thought there was entirely too much myself, especially at the…er…bottom of the post!

      Ah, do you mean the wording? In which case sure, that was indeed deliberate, and because of what I learned from that post you mention. But I think that “ass” is still more appropriate sometimes, as in “sitting on your ass all day” in this post and in the title of that last one (and which still brings a smile to my face!).

      Off jogging now: will try to catch up with more comments when I get back.


  4. It’s still quite startling for me to see Korean rear ends featured so shamelessly when one considers that lingerie is most often sold using fake torsos or foreign models.


  5. It guess with ‘apple’ and ‘apology’ both being 사과 in Korean, the slogan would have the double meaning of ‘Apologize to your bottoms!’ and ‘Make your butt like an apple!’ — it’s still a little weird an awkward, but at least it’s a little more comprehensible why they chose it.


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