“Gender Advertisements” in the Korean Context: A Request

( Source )

If you’d told me a week ago that I’d be spending much of my birthday looking for images of Korean men touching themselves, I’d probably have politely told you never to comment on my blog again.

Prompted by this analysis of Korean magazine advertisements that found that Korean men were significantly more likely to be shown doing so than Western men in them however, that’s precisely what I’ve been doing. But for all their supposed ubiquity, it’s proving surprisingly difficult to find examples, throwing off my schedule for the next posts in this series.

To be specific, I’m after advertisements like these, but featuring Korean men rather than women, and would really appreciate any help. Seriously, what search terms would you suggest, in English or Korean?^^

Of course I do have some examples, and will continue looking: my planned post will simply take longer than expected. In the meantime then, let me briefly offer some amusing and/or interesting advertisements that have cropped up recently instead, starting with that for Coca Cola Korea (한국 코카콜라) above featuring Thai-American Nichkhun (닉쿤) of the Korean band 2PM. I think its humor speaks for itself, but in the unlikely event that you feel I’m reading too much into it, please see those featuring other…er…members of the band here, of which Junho (준호) in particular seems to be enjoying holding his miniCoke bottle entirely too much!

Next is this one for Venus lingerie (비너스) featuring Han Ye-seul (한예슬), featured on the front page of Korea’s main portal site Naver (네이버) as I type this. Why it’s interesting is because of the English name “Glam Up” for the bra featured, which, making little sense otherwise, supports the argument that the English word “glamor” has somehow come to mean “voluptuous” or “curvaceous” in Korean:

( Source )

In turn, it demonstrates the ridiculousness of the new Korean phrase cheongsoon-gullaemor (청순글래머; or “innocent glamor”), but which is nevertheless very much in vogue in the Korean media at the moment. But that is no great surprise in view of the enduring popularity of older ones for women’s bodies like “S-line” (S라인) perhaps, and so, lest I begin to sound too serious here, let me move on to this advertisement for Nike Korea (나이키) featuring ice skater Kim Yu-na (김연아):

( Source: korean lovers photoblog )

One of the most endearing athletes I’ve ever seen (well before she won her gold medal), it’s difficult not to simply adore Yuna, but I confess I still had to to laugh at what Matt at Gusts of Popular Feeling wrote about this ad last month:

By the way, does anyone find Kim’s expression in this ad to be, uh, ecstatic?

Perhaps there’s a reason the left hand side was cut off where it was. Just do it, indeed.

Okay, perhaps that was reading too much into it, and I’m sure you can understand my reluctance in not posting it earlier, the image of her at #10 here alone receiving thousands of hits in the last week of February, presumably most of them from fans…

Either way, I hope you at least one of those advertisements made you smile and/or think. And again, if anyone can help find examples of the sorts of advertisements I’m looking for, I would very much appreciate it; even if it’s only because you feel guilty for forgetting my birthday!^^


15 thoughts on ““Gender Advertisements” in the Korean Context: A Request

  1. i will look through my vast collection of CF pics of particular stars to see if i can find anything for you. hmm men touching themselves as your belated birthday consolation…. really doesn’t sound right! ^^


  2. happy belated birthday! the ad with Nichkun made me smile ^^ i think i’ve got at least one image of Korean men touching themselves somewhere on my laptop. will send you an email as i don’t remember where exactly i got those images from…i’ll try to find out by tomorrow…


  3. Thanks everyone. Actually, none of those in that thread Seri, or that people have sent me have the men touching themselves(!), but I really really don’t want to sound ungrateful, and in hindsight it’s not that big of a deal really: although the analysis I cited did indeed find that Korean men were more likely to be depicted touching or grasping themselves, and which, judging by those examples I gave, does indeed appear a little more “feminine” than caressing objects or other people (which Western men are more often shown doing), it’s not like that’s the only way in which Korean men are generally shown more childishly, “feminine”, and/or cuter than Western men in Korean advertisements. So however much it would be nice to have them, it turns out that I don’t really need them to write that post I guess.

    Please do still send me some if you find them though(!), but still, that difference was from an analysis of just 4 editions each (1 from each season) of 3 women’s magazines (Ceci, Cindy the Perky, and eCole) from 2002-2003, so it may have been unique to either those magazines or that period. In particular, 7-8 years is a lifetime in the Korean media, so there’s a very real possibility that the difficulty I/we have in finding the advertisements I want may simply be because there’s not all that many like that these days.

    Either way, thanks again, and for listening to what’s been effectively me thinking out aloud in this post!^^


    1. I sure do know that one, and you might be interested in this discussion about it I had with another commenter a little while back.

      Don’t get your point about my posting the advertisement with Yuna despite my initial reluctance though sorry, my point being that my blog is no longer getting (many) hits from whom are sometimes quite finicky fans of hers, so what might have attracted many angry comments two weeks ago probably won’t now (not that I’m scared, but I’d rather not waste time dealing with them). But regardless, what bet did you win?^^


  4. FYI – Glamor or Glamorous has been used for years in Japan as a means to express voluptuous or curvaceous. I believe it may have come from images of Marilyn Monroe (and other Holywod imports) from the 1950s and 60s. Even in America today, she would be held up as the prototypical image of “Glamorous.” Though Japanese women are conciderably thinner than westerners are today, could you imagine how voluptuose Ms. Monrow must have looked to the Japanese 40 years ago? As is often the case, Korea often “borrows” words which the Japanese have “borrowed” from somewhere else. Glamor is one of them. “Arubaito” is another.


    1. Thanks for the information, and quite agreed that many Japanese words ultimately get incorporated into Korean too. But actually I’m not entirely convinced about “glamor” and “ara-bah-eit” specifically, the long time gap between being the former adopted in Japan in the 50’s and ’60s(?) and only in Korea last year very strange, and the latter may well have actually come from Korean laborers in Germany in the 1960s, which my Korean-German friends at least confirm may be a possibility (I’ve been curious about that word for a long time(!), as well as why the Spanish “pierro” was adopted for “clown” in Korean).

      But either way, yes indeed Marilyn Monroe must have appeared very voluptuous to the Japanese back then!^^


      1. I think “ara-bah-eite” did come from Japan. I mean so did “oh-bah-eite”(horrible pronunciation of overeat – throw up). “guh-lae-muh” has definitely been around a LOT longer than a year. I’ve always wondered where the hell it originated from. The Monroe does make sense and is interesting….but I do wonder where the “pierro” one came from.


  5. Ah sorry I misread it completely. Themselves! Somehow I read eachother (hasty reading) Well, I have seen many, I will update you but right now I’m in college (blocked sites and such)


  6. Pierro is also Japanese for clown, and I believ it comes from the famous Italian clown, no? And, interestingly in Japan, Arubaito means “part time job” as well as Furita – short for “free timer”) which is very different from the experience of laborers in teh 1960s in Germany, who were probably full timers. So, if “Arubaito” means work in general in Korea, I would be open to the German laborer idea, bt if it specifivally means “part-time job” then, I would tend to think it came via Japan. but as you put in your post James, the German laborer situation isdefinately a possibility.

    There is LOTS and LOTS of cultural interplay (as you well know) between Japan and Korea. Also, lots and lots an lots (very scientific) of Korean living, working and studying in Japan (whereas most Japanese in Korea are tourists). Many foreign words probably continue to move from Japan to Korea, and the kicker here is that as they were never really Jaapnese words to begin with, they do not bring with tehm the cultuatl baggage of being the language of teh former oppressor. Ofcourse, Korean words are making there way into the Japanese language as well, but I was referring to the interesting”migration” of words from Europe to Japan to Korea.

    Also, up until recently, Japanese media was illegal in Korea, and you would have an interesting situation in which Korean TV producers would watch Japanese TV, emulate it, and reproduce it with a Korean twist. The whole style of the audience “oohing and ahhiung” to an interesting fact, or the picture within picture, and the words going on the screen as they are spoken, is basicaly taken from Japanese TV. Along with that idea, it is very possible that words were also borrowed in such a manner.

    Just an idea.

    Oh, and thunbs up on your blog James. I’m inpressed by the time and energy you put into it!


    1. Have to confess that I don’t know anything about a famous Italian clown, just that “pierro” means “clown” in Spanish (and presumably Italian). Can say that you make a compelling argument in the case of 아라바이트/Ara-bah-ee-tuh though, because it would indeed be strange for Korean miners and nurses in the ’60s just to apply the German arbeitto parti-time work. Against that, there’s always the argument that many adopted words in particular simply make no sense, “innocent glamor” that we’ve discussed here being the first thing that comes to mind, and which may well simply be a complete invention (albeit with the “glamor” part coming from Japanese). But I do think you’re right in this case at the very least.

      I hear you about the cultural interplay, and while I’d never really be sufficiently interested to research the topic myself(!), it would be interesting to see how the Korean language changed from especially the 1970s onwards as US culture became more prominent here and people in upper echelons of the state and businesses began to be replaced by people who had received their education in the US rather than in Japan and/or the colonial administration (as you probably know, Park Chung-hee was a complete Japaniphile). I had no idea that so many things in Korean TV today like the nauseating ooohing and ahhhing and so on were completely copied from the Japanese media too though, although I think Micheal Hurt did touch on that now and then years ago at The Scribblings of the Metropolitician.

      Oh, and thanks for the compliments by the way!


  7. Have you seen this Korean Air commercial? I don’t know if this is what you’re looking for (and the male models at least all appear to be Western). But you might find it interesting nonetheless. Almost the entire commercial—scantily dressed models moving in and out of the shot, kissing napkins, turning seductively—is a sexual buildup to the ultimate climax where upon a male model holds a shaken bottle of Champaign up to his crotch and pops the cork. If that’s not supposed to be an ejaculating penis, then, well, it just can’t be anything else. . . . Hell, you might be able to write an entire post around this one.

    PS My Castilian is a little rusty, but “payaso” is the only word for clown I’m familiar with. And I couldn’t find “pierro” in any of my dictionaries. Maybe it’s a very old term.


    1. Thanks: I hadn’t, but yes I do, yes it surely is (LOL), and yes I probably will! Thanks for correcting my mistake about “pierro” too, & in hindsight I have no idea why I came to think it was Spanish as well as Italian for clown, and unfortunately which just goes to show how much I’ve forgotten all that freshman Spanish I did 13 years ago!


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