“Blogging ’bout Love in the ROK”

With apologies for not being able to mention more of you in the 800 word limit, here is my article in Busan Haps magazine based on your thoughts on the sudden increase in the number of bloggers discussing dating and marrying Korean men. Thanks again for your help!

Update: Ironically, just 2 days after that went up, Hot Yellow Fellows reports a lull in the number of new blogs on the subject, and most of the rest going “into dating hibernation, either due to leaving Korea (what’s up.), having gotten into relationships, or running into bad luck/apathy”!

(If you’d like to leave any comments, please do so on the Busan Haps website)


Korean Sociological Image #40: As Pretty as a Picture?


As any visitor to the country can tell you, Korea is a society obsessed with appearance.

After all, cosmetic-surgery clinics are everywhere. And where else can you hear of people bothering to photoshop passport photos, or even that it’s completely legal to do so?

But if we accept that obsession as a given, then, whatever its pernicious effects on women (and, of course, it does primarily affect women), it doesn’t mean that Korean consumers are simply dupes. A woman who decides to get breast-enlargement surgery, for instance, isn’t necessarily suffering from something like gong-ju byeong (공주병), or “princess disease.” More likely, she’s making a very rational, informed choice that has a dramatic positive effect on her career opportunities and confidence, more than paying back the initial investment.

And indeed, short of becoming some form of activist, and a poor and frustrated one at that, what exactly can people do when prospective employers require photos with resumes?

Still, as regular commenter Gomushin Girl pointed out in an earlier post:

You can say that an individual’s decision to participate in a socially normative activity may be rational, but that doesn’t make it either healthy for the individual or a rational norm for society to perpetuate. Female genital mutilation makes rational sense to the parents who inflict it on their daughters, who thereby ensure their daughter’s ability to participate as a normative member of society. However, few people would argue that submitting a child or young woman to a painful, permanently physically debilitating, possibly lethal, and medically unnecessary surgery is a healthy decision for either the individual and the society, no matter how established.

Add to this that the decision to get plastic surgery is not an uncoerced one and focused almost entirely on policing the looks of a single gender, and you have a deeply problematic social custom. It’s also a social custom under considerable debate among Koreans themselves, so it’s not like the big bad Westerners are coming by just to tsk tsk at the silly Asian custom. (My emphasis.)

With those negatives in mind, I’m glad to pass on the news that at least one politician is trying to do something about resume photographs:

(Source: Focus Busan, June 9 2010, p. 6.)

Will Photos Be Removed From Resumes?

On the 8th, Grand National Party (한나라당) National Assembly member Jeong Ok-im (photo) pushed for a revision to existing anti-sexual discrimination legislation for it to also prohibit the attachment of photographs to resumes and/or application forms.

According to existing legislation, if employers ask female applicants for details of their looks, height, weight, and other bodily-related facts, and also such things as their marital status, then they can face of a fine of 5 million won.

Jeong aims to add two extra clauses to this. First, that it should not be confined only to “female workers” but should be instead be made applicable to all “workers”; and also, that employers can not demand photos with applications. The reason is that such questions are not just a problem for women, but in fact affect both sexes.


Moreover, Jeong explained that this requirement for photos, reflecting a long-seated overemphasis  on appearance, is not to be found in developed countries like the U.K., U.S., Australia, and Canada. In fact, in the O.E.C.D., only Korea and Japan follow this practice.

Indeed, from the outset employers in those other countries do not request information about such things as your sex, age, body size, weight, and so on, as these are irrelvent to your ability.

Jeong says that “this ‘Perfect Face Culture’ has deep roots in tradition and our patriarchal culture, and it continually distorts the employment market. Hence I have proposed these changes to the legislation to put a stop to it.”

What do you think? Have any readers, and perhaps particularly Gyopo readers, had any negative experiences of being asked questions like the above in interviews, which they would be much less likely to by Western employers?

Of course, I’m not so naive or biased to assume that Western employers don’t sometimes ask inappropriate and/or illegal questions either, but then I doubt they would ever ask details of applicants’ family histories and parents’ jobs for instance, and I imagine that I would be very uncomfortable working for an employer for whom the answers to such questions were important. Indeed, it behooves me to remember how my own work-life as foreign English teacher is really quite isolated from the rest of Korean society in that regard.

But regardless, even if the legislation is revised, it remains to be seen if it is actually enforced: women are still regularly fired for getting pregnant or requesting their legally mandated maternity leave for instance, despite already comprehensive anti-sexual discrimination legislation. But hey: at least it’s a start!


Note: This post is not intended as:

  • An indirect commentary on the attractiveness of the random Korean woman and man above
  • An invitation to question their intelligence and/or mock their decision to have their photos photoshopped
  • Nor an invitation to criticize the random photo studio for providing such a service (with my apologies for using its pictures).

Please: no comments along those lines.

Update: With apologies for overlooking it, Brian in Jeollanam-do also discussed this topic a little last June.

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

Music Monday: On Black music, KARA, & Why K-pop bands are so large…

Three things of interest I came across all in the space of this morning…

First up, a recent edition of the BBC4 podcast Thinking Allowed, which – paraphrasing slightly – discusses the contention of cultural critic Paul Gilroy that:

From Curtis Mayfield to 50 Cent, from Nina Simone to JayZ, black music has declined in its quality and lost its moral stance. Outlined in his essay “Troubadours, Warriors, and Diplomats” in his book Darker Than Blue: On the Moral Economies of Black Atlantic Culture (2010) , he joins host Laurie Taylor and music journalist Caspar Melville to discuss the counter-cultural stance that black popular music once had, and explore whether it really has been destroyed.

On the surface only tangentially-related to Korea, in that modern K-pop has strong hip-hop roots (in contrast to J-pop, which are more in rock), this 28 minute, very accessible synopsis it is still surely required listening for all those interested in music and cultural studies. And indeed, the second half of the discussion in which they talk more about the impact of technological developments on music, and especially the reality that precious few young people are prepared to pay for it anymore, is perhaps more pertinent to the Korean music industry than most.

Next, an Icelandic reader passed on a link (thanks!) to the journal article “Crazy About You: Reflections on the Meanings of Contemporary Teen Pop Music” in the Electronic Journal of Sociology (2002), by Phillip Vannini and Scott M. Myers, in which the highlighted part below immediately leaped out at me. With apologies for the long quote for the sake of context (actually, only 2/3rds of the paragraph!):

…Centralized corporate production insures continued consumption through pervasive distribution, vast output volume, and structured product obsolescence (Gitlin, 1981) while strategies of careful manufacturing of the image and sound of pop icons ascertain that audiences are treated as ‘targets’ and ‘market-segments’. Take for example the case of Britney Spears. Her image and sound had been first controlled by Disney as a pre-teen Britney worked as a host of the Mickey Mouse Club. Subsequently her schoolgirl image was spiced up to appeal to the 12-16 age group and her videos were made to occupy a steady spot in the rotation of Zoog ABC and the Disney Network. Now, with her continued biological growth her image has been recreated as sensual and provocative and formatted to meet the demands of MTV. As this takes place new ‘Britney’s’ mushroom on the market to appeal to different targets: Jessica Simpson to Christian teenagers, Mandy Moore to preteens, Jennifer Lopez to Latinas and older fans. Producers’ control extends from songwriting to image-packaging and personality development (Frith, 1978). Any boy-band act is put together to appeal to various personalities and life outlooks of fans as each band includes a member portrayed as cute and sweet, one funny, one good-looking and mysterious, one creative and goofy, one talented and motivated, one dark and tough, and such. Bands are created with the consumers’ demand in mind4, for example LFO target through MTV an older adolescent urban audience with their hip-hopish sound and sexual innuendos, while S Club 7 and Aaron Carter target preteens through Fox Family and ABC Family. This is an example of the diversification of products that allow producers the broadest appeal possible and the highest profit margin.

In passing, footnote 4 from that is also interesting:

4. The structure of consumer demand is an important concept to keep in mind. As Frith (1978) suggested producers’ ability to shape needs is limited. Why or when a style becomes popular or unpopular remains a conundrum for the music industry. It is much easier for any producer to stay with one genre or act after it has become popular and produce endless imitations than experiment with new formats or shape consumer demand. Record industries still find very few acts highly profitable, while the majority of albums produced and distributed hardly bring any profit at all (Burnett, 1996).

But the highlighted part caught my eye because of what I’d read in the post Thoughts on K-Pop Vol. 1: So Addictive at the blog Multi, which is definitely required reading for those interested in Korean music specifically:

Another important thing to note is that the Korean music industry is populated mainly by groups of at least five members. With a main audience of between 10 and 19, this is a brilliant idea because all the kids will have at least one person they like in every band, are enthralled by their personalities as seen on numerous TV shows, and will not hesitate to buy their albums and merchandise. This works for other industries as well, as phone, food and clothing companies almost solely hire celebrities to star in their commercials. They also record songs and shoot music videos (and short films) for these products and then endorse them on their numerous TV appearances. Basically, the celebrities become the only people you see on screen and in print. They become ridiculously popular really quickly, and then are sent around Asia to maximize their worth because all the other countries have succumbed to the “hallyu wave”.

Naively, I hadn’t been aware that the same logic also existed outside of East Asia. But having said that, it is still much more marked in K-pop. For not only it is exaggerated by the overwhelmingly celebrity-focused nature of advertising here, but that in turn is further exaggerated by the need to sell singers rather than their music per se,  for reasons mentioned earlier. And there’s less space for independent artists that don’t subscribe to that logic to emerge too.

Finally, all the photos of KARA (카라) in this post are from their performance at (unfortunately spelt) Wonkwang University (원광대학교)* last month, in which it started to rain halfway through their song but – seemingly without so much as batting an eye – they kept performing nonetheless (see video below).  Found via Omona They Didn’t!, admittedly I probably wouldn’t have given the photos a second glance if they had been of a boy-band instead, but once I had then I really responded to them, well-aware of how refreshing and especially liberating it can feel to continue exercising – or indeed, dancing – in a downpour.

More to the point though, not only are the photos themselves stunning, which this blog theme doesn’t really do justice to (click on the images themselves for more detail, or see Diabolique here and here for more), but in particular KARA happened to be performing Lupin (루팡), in which as Multi – who else? – puts it:

…From what I gleaned from Youtube translations of the songs, they sing about being confident (in love?) and not being afraid…as opposed to simply trying to get a guy’s attention in “Mister” (미스터); check here and here for respective lyrics, and it shows in their performances. They shine in “Lupin”, but bore with “Mister”. It might just be that “Lupin” is fresher, and they’re bored of performing Mister (side effect of weekly live performances, a.k.a overkill, of songs in k-pop) but I doubt it’s just that…

She tends to prefer performances to the music itself, and presumably to the music videos too, but for what it’s worth here they are to compare:

And finally a fan cam of the performance, although unfortunately it’s of very poor quality. The rain starts falling about at about 1:20:


p.s. I’d been under the impression for many years that the term “Black Music” wasn’t particularly PC, and consequently have sometimes discouraged my Korean students from using it, but the Thinking Allowed podcast made me realize I may have been mistaken. Was I, or is there perhaps a difference between American and British English?

* (Say “Won-Kwang”, not “Wonk Wang”!)


Korean Gender Reader

( Source: Sex, Art and Politics )

In a very comfortable-with-my-heterosexuality way, this picture from Tamotsu Yato’s 1972 book OTOKO: Photo-Studies of the Young Japanese Male is really rather good, and the hat reminds me a little of this award-winning shot too. Not so much artistic as soft gay porn however (interestingly, most of the models were heterosexual), then unfortunately the remainder of the book is not really up my alley personally, but you can download it in full from Sex, Art and Politics if you’d like. (via: Doing it Korean Style)

1. LBGT news and events

In related news, and with apologies for the late notice, this weekend there is the 11th Annual Queer Pride Festival in Seoul. See Roboseyo and Busan Haps for more links and event details, and Gusts of Popular Feeling for a more detailed analysis of the public acceptance of LGBT culture in Korea (and also here also for an excellent chronological overview).

Meanwhile, the Constitutional Court is expected to soon decide whether Article 92 of the Military Law stipulating the punishment of homosexual soldiers is a violation of their constitutional rights. Currently soldiers who have a sexual relationship with a member of the same sex are punished with one year’s imprisonment, which – forgive me if this sounds trite – is surely  rather ironic in light of a pervasive culture of sexual abuse in the South Korean military. And probably not by coincidence, I was surprised to learn that apparently gay rape is not considered a crime in Korea also, something which emerged from the news that a male songwriter was sexually assaulted by a male comedian earlier this week.

Finally, The Three Wise Monkeys has a post about Gi Hyeong-do (기형도), “a misunderstood modern gay Korean poet” (via: Korean Modern Literature in Translation); another about a trip to “Homo Hill” in Seoul; and finally, albeit not LGBT-related, also on that blog is this, this, and this post on Korean “room-salon” culture.

2. Parents demand government action on mini-skirted school uniform scandal

Young Korean celebrities may no longer be legally allowed to advertise school uniforms (see #7 here), but apparently that isn’t stopping female students from altering them to be “mini uniforms” or “S-line uniforms” themselves.

I’m reminded of an observation that a friend living in Japan made of their Japanese counterparts, who would attach velco to their skirts to raise them while hanging out in Shibuya, only to lower them while back at school. Has anyone heard of Korean students doing the same?

( Source: unknown )

3. Elementary school student raped in Seoul

See Brian in Jeollanam-do for more details, and I’d echo one commenter’s amazement and incredulity that the alleged rapist was able to wander the hallways unnoticed for an hour before dragging the student from the playground at 10am. Indeed, with two preschool daughters myself, it’s led me to seriously consider homeschooling here for the first time.

(Ironically, that inattention by the school comes at a time when parents in Seoul were outraged to discover that videos and audio of their children’s kindergarten classes were being streamed real-time onto the internet, all without their consultation or consent)

Brian also mentions that “in a very uncommon move in South Korea, the authorities released his name and photograph,” but in fact these were already available due to events set in motion by the rape and murder of a 13-year old girl by Kim Kil-tae (김길태) in Busan in February. Revealed to be a former sex-offender, but whose personal details had been kept anonymous by existing legislation, then the ensuing popular outrage led to the Ministry of Gender Equality and Family Affairs retroactively making all sex-offenders’ whereabouts publicly available on the internet (see #8 & #10 here), and accordingly so too here is the alleged rapist a former sex-offender.

This incident follows that of a 15-year-old middle school girl losing her life after being sexually assaulted and robbed by two 14 and 15 year old boys in Seoul last month. Apologies if the above image seems tasteless in light of that, and I don’t mean to imply a direct relationship between the two. But I did find the juxtaposition of stories interesting, and at the very least it points to a dire need to at least acknowledge the sexuality of teenagers, and hence provide decent sex education and – for want of a better term – awareness of sexual ethics accordingly.

Update: It remains true that as an already registered sex-offender, then the alleged rapist’s details were already public knowledge. But with apologies to Brian, I completely forgot what I wrote back in April:

…the government has now decided to release the names and faces of alleged sex-offenders when there is “strong evidence of guilt and a public demand to know,” and one immediate problem that comes to mind is how open that is to interpretation.

See #9 here for further details.

4. Forced ‘love shot’ constitutes harassment

From The Korea Times:

A court ruled Tuesday that a high school in Gyeonggi Province did not overstep its authority in dismissing a male teacher who forced a group of trainee teachers to drink “love shots” against their will at an evening get-together party.

A “love shot” is when two people drink with arms entwined, a drinking ritual meant to boost teamwork and forge closer relationships but which is often abused by male superiors.

Compare this landmark case from June 2007, in which a female employee successfully sued her boss for being forced to drink at a work dinner.

5. The trials and tribulations of being an unmarried 30+ year-old woman

Not a critical analysis, but another interesting and amusing post from Mental Poo nonetheless.

6. Women in Korea webcast

If you don’t know already, then every Sunday night (usually around 8 or 9) KoreaBridge has a live “women in Korea” webcast. Always interesting, anybody can listen and/or watch the discussion here, and more women are always welcome to join via Skype (but a headset is recommended!).

( Source: Extreme Movie )

7. Drama version of Level 7 Civil Servant (7급 공무원) in the works.

Not that gender-related sorry, but then I have always liked the poster. See Dramabeans for more details, and actually it does sound interesting:

The movie’s plot centered around a woman who hides her spy identity from her slightly bumbling but well-meaning boyfriend. When her stories don’t add up and he gets tired of being shoved aside for odd reasons, he finally leaves her and goes abroad for his job. A few years later, he comes back as a rookie agent and runs into her again, much cooler now but not without a trace of his former dorkiness. (LOVE him!) But of course, neither can let on that they’re both spies, and moreover, their respective teams are working on cases that bring them repeatedly in contact with each other. The plot didn’t always convince — bioweapons, Russian baddies, blah blah — but the humor and the two leads made for an entertaining ride.

(Update: I’m curious. Would you say that this particular image conveys the common media theme “that sex is about male aggression and female submission”? I honestly can’t tell)

8. OMG: a Korean young female idol was not interested in what an elder was saying!

Quickly adding these stories to a draft version of this post as they appear throughout the week, sometimes my original, rather direct titles for them remain the most appropriate! In one of those only-in-Korea moments, see K-Bites and Omona! They Didn’t for more on f(x) (에프엑스) band member Krystal’s supposedly heinous faux pas for which she was roundly criticized by netizens for.

Probably not coincidentally, I’ve only been able to find precisely one actual video of it available unfortunately, and a mirror-reversed one at that. Lest even that be deleted eventually though, then I’ve uploaded it to Youtube so you can see for yourself, but have kept the title vague so as to not get flagged for copyright violation:

9. “Korean ladies refuse to date black men”

So claims the author of a letter to the editor of The Seoul Times, which in turn made it to The Dallas Blog. For some reason it appears to have been deleted at the latter, and unfortunately the former doesn’t allow direct links to articles, so here is the original from Ken Washington:

I am a Black American and I have lived in South Korea for eight years. I have recently been denied several jobs because I am Black.

My father fought and risked his life in the Korean War so Koreans could be free. Free to hate Black people. How ironic?

Several Korean ladies have refused to go out with me because they said that I am Black and when they were young they were made fun of because their skin was darker than most Korean. I then asked them “Would they not date Koreans if someone teased them for being Korean” and they said no because they are Korean and then I said you are also dark skinned so why do not like dark skinned people.

Anyway I began to understand how they felt as I watched Korean TV where all of the people in ads and TV shows are 99% white or light skinned. South Korea has effectively isolated a large majority of their population because they have color in their skin.

I was hoping (The Audacity to Hope) that when Obama became president that maybe the country would change about how they feel about Blacks but I was wrong.

The most disappointing aspect for me is that I really love Korea but I know that it is time for me leave where I know I am not wanted.

South Koreans have a great country with a lot of positives but to exclude so many people, simply because of their skin color, in the 21st century with no end in site is simply limiting the possibility of greater deeds.

Admittedly more interesting for the basic message rather than the quality of the content per se, I’d be very interested to learn more from any Black readers about your dating experiences with Koreans; alas, I’ve only had one Black friend in Korea myself, and he left with his Korean wife to live in Alabama in 2001. But I do know that her parents refused to meet him until the weekend before they left, which was a whole year after their wedding! Would you say that that story was typical, and/or would you say that things have changed since? (Source right: China Smack)

Meanwhile, interracial marriages are soaring in the US, but not evenly. According to CNN (via The Marmot’s Hole):

…About 16 percent of African-Americans overall are in an interracial marriage, but researchers point out a gender difference: It’s more common for black men to marry outside of their race than for black women.

The gender difference was the reverse in the Asian population surveyed. Twice as many newlywed Asian women, about 40 percent, were married outside their race, compared with Asian men, at about 20 percent.

10. What’s in a name?

In case any of you didn’t know already, my wife and I decided to give both our daughters English first names and Korean middle names (actually, my wife’s surname). Here’s why:

When I was a freshman in Auckland University back in the mid-90′s, I took some sociology courses (confusedly for Americans, they were called ‘papers’ in New Zealand, although the terminology may have changed since then). In one, the Maori lecturer explained that like most Maoris born in the 1960s and 1970s, she had an English first name and only a Maori second name because her parents didn’t want her to be discriminated against. Sure, racists may not ultimately have hired her because she was a Maori, but at least her name would have ensured that she at least got an interview.

New Zealand has of course changed a great deal since then, and I doubt Maori parents today would think twice about giving a Maori first name, but instead the problem has shifted towards another group: East Asians. Shortly before I left NZ in 2000 I read in The New Zealand Herald, the biggest paper there, that despite some schooling in the country, qualifications gained there, and near native English fluency, many people with East Asian names were still finding it difficult to find employment because employers, solely based on their names, feared a lack of English ability and/or an inability to ‘fit in’ at work.

In short, this is still a problem there 10 years later, and I mention the subject now because my Korean Twitter friend pompeiigranate recently changed her name partially for that reason, but mostly because of a lifetime of being teased. See here for more on her reasons why, which I’m sure have parallels with many other immigrants’ experiences.

“Give me a job! I don’t even look half-Korean!”

11. Reclaiming the F-word

Not strictly related to Korea sorry, but after 10 years of living here then I’m a little out of touch with the state of feminism in Western countries to compare it against, so once it becomes available at What The Book then I’ll probably be buying the above title, which appears to be an excellent summary of contemporary UK feminism. See here for basic information about it, here for several reviews, and here for more on the book launch earlier this week.

Male songwriter gets sexually assaulted by a male comedian


Hot Sweaty Korean Women

What makes this commercial so special?

No, it’s not because of Park Ga-hee’s great body, which isn’t unheard of in K-pop. It’s not because she’s leader of the girl-group After School, which I’ve been writing a lot about recently. And it’s not because she’s no manufactured K-pop idol either, once literally penniless on the streets of Seoul after running away from home.

Those do make her more attractive and interesting, but they don’t speak to the commercial.

Rather, it’s special because she’s sweating.

Yes, sweating. Because as I first highlighted over 2 years ago, Korean women generally prefer passive means of losing weight to active ones like exercise. (Update, 2013: post since deleted sorry.) Indeed, even the ones that do attend gyms rarely seem to exert any actual effort while they’re there, and I’ve seen less than a handful dripping with sweat while on a treadmill.

A gross over-generalization? Actually, I very much hope so, and, admittedly not having gone to a Korean gym myself since 2004, then I’d nothing better to learn that things have changed since. But my 2008 post did seem to strike a chord with readers’ own experiences back then, and in turn the underlying attitudes to exercise that they demonstrated were corroborated by one of the few English language studies of the subject: “Content Analysis of Diet Advertisements: A Cross-National Comparison of Korean and U.S. Women’s Magazines” (Clothing and Textiles Research Journal, October 2006), by Minjeong Kim and Sharron Lennon. With apologies to long-term readers for my frequent references to it, but it’s worth (re)highlighting some parts here to remind ourselves just how unique the Fat Down (팻다운) commercial really is:

In his study with Korean female college students, Kim (1998) found that a predominant portion of respondents engaged in dieting for appearance rather than health, and a majority of respondents had previously engaged in dieting. The most common method of dieting was to restrict caloric intake, whereas a similar study with American female college students found that exercise was the most common dieting method among American women (Grunwald, 1985). (p. 350)

(Source: 영원같은 찰나)

Granted, those are old studies. But ponder the fact that one question I posed to my university students for their final vocal tests this week was “What are your plans for the summer?”, and fully 20 out of 55 of the women said they would be dieting to wear a bikini on the beach.* Which not only surely reflects an obsession in itself, but notably none said merely “losing weight” either, and definitely not “exercising” or “working out” (by way of comparison, 1 out of 65 guys said he would be working out). Hence the tests took rather longer than expected, as I felt compelled to step out of my remit as an English teacher and point out that none of them needed to lose weight whatsoever, that Korean women were already the slimmest in the OECD, and that could they at least consider maybe exercising rather than dieting?

(*As readers explained in the comments, I took the word “diet” much too literally. My mistake.)

And there are were plenty more anecdotes like that available in that post from 2008. But I like to be above passing on mere anecdotes these days, so consider some of the empirical evidence provided by Kim and Lennon instead:

The percentage of diet ads in relation to total ads was far greater in Korean women’s magazines than in U.S. magazines. (p.357)

Also (source. right):

A current article in one Korean newspaper (“Half of High School Females Are Not Qualified,” 2002) reported that more than half of Korean high school women suffer from an anemic constitution caused by malnutrition because of dieting. Also half the prospective blood donors from several high schools were not qualified because of deficiencies in nutrition. (p. 357)


Content analysis of the types of diet products/programs indicated that there are a variety of diet products easily available in Korean magazines….Diet pills, body attachments such as a diet belt, and oriental diet herbs were three of the more frequently advertised diet products in the Korean magazines sampled. However, none of them was reported as being clinically approved….Korean magazines promote more passive diet methods than active diet methods. Ads for passive diet methods such as diet pills, massage, aroma therapy, diet crème, or diet drinks that one must take, put on the body, or smell to lose weight were more prevalent than diet ads requiring one’s active participation such as exercise equipment or aerobic videotapes. Passive dieting ads reinforce the idea that buying a product will solve weight problems with no effort on the part of the user. (p. 358)

See here, here, and here for examples and further discussion of such advertisements, and you may also find these electric breast massagers and apple-hip seats interesting. Meanwhile, shame again on the Brown Eyed Girls…but please don’t take this post as an endorsement of Fat Down myself: I know nothing about it, and certainly do not know its ingredients or effectiveness. As you can see above though, I do at least recall that Jung Da-yeon also endorsed it, a woman in her early-40s who became famous a few years ago for being a momjjang ajumma (몸짱아주마), literally a “good body married woman”.

(Update) Related, I like the no-bullshit attitude of this advertisement for a cosmetic surgery in yesterday’s Busan edition of Focus newspaper (p. 6), which reads: “How much will you have to drink before you’ll get a V-line?”, a reference to this drink’s supposed ability to give you that face shape.

(Source: Focus)

The Gender Politics of Smoking in South Korea: Part 2

A teaser for the next posts in the series (click to enlarge):

With apologies for the poor quality of the scans, those are from an activity in the ESL activity book Decisionmaker: 14 Business Situations for Analysis and Discussion (1997) by David Evans, which I happened to be doing with my advanced students when a reader sent me the journal articles that inspired this series. It seemed a pity not to mention the interesting coincidence!

Yet another coincidence is that before I moved from Jinju (진주) to Busan in late-2003, I also happened to have a 23-year old female Korean friend who was similarly attracted by the possibility of working for British American Tobacco, which was then setting up a manufacturing plant in Sacheon (사천) just a few kilometers away (it’s still there). We didn’t quite have a conversation like Kim Jin-hiu did with her family, although I did try to discourage her from applying; as I would today too, although I’d have a much better appreciation of her motivations. In the end though, she ignored me and managed to get an interview, but surprisingly wasn’t offered a job.

Meanwhile, as David Evans explains, the marketing plan in the “secret memo” does sound outrageous, but in fact:

…some cigarette companies have undoubtedly targeted children in their marketing strategies. A leaked memo from a Canadian tobacco company listed teenagers as a target group,  and cigarette adverts are regularly shown on children’s TV in Japan (James: is this still true?). In 1991, a study showed that American children as young as six could identify Joe Camel (a cartoon character advertising Camel cigarettes) as easily as Mickey Mouse!

And in Part 4, which I’ll link to below once it’s up next week, I’ll outline how internal industry documents reveal that cigarette companies in Korea (including British American Tobacco) have indeed been using many of the same strategies mentioned above, albeit technically not explicitly to girls (or boys for that matter). Watch this space.

(Links to other posts in the series as they appear: Part 1, Part 3, Newsflash, Part 4, Korea’s Hidden Smokers; Living as a female smoker in Korea)