Korean Sociological Image #58: Sexulizising Caucasian Women (again)

(Source: Ads of the World)

Sigh. I beg to differ on Cup Noodles being a “diet food” made for “people who want to get themselves into shape”, but it’s no great surprise that that’s how they’re being marketed in Korea.

Nor that it’s a Caucasian female model who loses her skirt either, rather than Korean model Jang Yun-ju (장윤주) who’s the one actually endorsing it:


Both familiar themes of Korean advertising, for more on body image in Korea see especially Korean Sociological Image #57 and this follow-up, or #18, 27, and 52 for more the sexualization of Western (especially Caucasian) women in the Korean media, and here for some of the negative effects of that.

Meanwhile, of course I do realize that Korea is by no means the only country where noodles are sometimes marketed as a diet food. But the campaign is very different to what you would see in New Zealand for instance, where my sister – who found the ad here – tells me that, these days, instant noodles are increasingly being marketed to children instead. And as for the falling skirt advertisement, that “would immediately be set upon and torched by militant lesbians”!

Also, as it happens I’ve actually liked Jang Yun-ju ever since I read this, and so consider it both ironic and a pity that such an atypical Korean model agreed to be part of something that displays some of the worst habits of the Korean advertising industry. Moreover, she’s also one of the rare Korean models not ashamed of doing lingerie advertisements (although their numbers have been increasing recently), which again raises the question of what a Caucasian woman is doing, well, bending over on that lamppost instead of her.


What do you think? Has anybody actually seen the ad themselves?

Update: I’m glad I’m not the only one that noticed that it’s male passersby that seemed to most appreciate the ad, whereas women can be seen walking by in embarrassment!

Update 2: I did miss the phallic object though…

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


10 thoughts on “Korean Sociological Image #58: Sexulizising Caucasian Women (again)

    1. Being married to a Korean woman, then naturally I beg to differ. But seriously, if I ever get the opportunity to do the full extended version of my Gender Advertisements in the Korean Context lecture rather than having to rush through it like normal, then I would point out how such ads give precisely that impression, like Michael Hurt wrote back in 2005:

      One thing that I also notice is that in underwear and other commercials that require people to be scantily-clad, only white people seem to be plastered up on walls in the near-buff. Now, it may be the sense that Korean folks – especially women – would be considered too reserved and above that sort of thing (what I call the “cult of Confucian domesticity”). Maybe that’s linked to the stereotyped expectation that white people always be running around all nasty and hanging out already, as is their “way.” Another possibility has to do with the reaction I hear from Korean people when I mention this, which is that white people just “look better” with less clothes, since Koreans have “short leg” syndrome and gams that look like “radishes.” The men are more “manly” and just look more “natural” with their shirts off. Hmm. The thoughts of the culturally colonialized? Perhaps I’m being too harsh? My hunch is that it’s all of the above.

      I realize that that’s the actual point of your comment of course, but just for sake of people’s future reference and all.


  1. Ramen noodles are junk food like chips and crackers. Very little nutrition in a bowl of easily digestible carbs quickly converted to stored fat by the body if the glucose in bloodstream is not burned as energy. Unfortunately, the Korean consumer is probably as nutritionally savvy as the American consumer who buys whole cereal with added sugars because there’s a heart-smart label that Kellogg paid the American Heart Association for the right to use.


    1. Preaching to the converted here Sonagi(!), although you may be surprised at how many of my Western and Korean friends consider ramyeon a perfectly acceptable family dinner (albeit with side dishes). I certainly was that cereals with added sugars got the heart-smart label in the US.

      My family does occasionally eat the healthier non-fried version of ramyeon, which costs 2-3x the normal price and has to be kept in the fridge, but I’m still not a big fan of even that, and honestly I’ve never understood ramyeon’s almost universal appeal in this part of the world. Price does explain much of it of course, but many of my students are quite happy to have ramyeon for lunch and then pay 5x as much for a coffee at Starbucks.


  2. Given the extensive photoshopping that ad images undergo, I doubt that perceptions of Korean versus Western bodies is a factor here. The images of both the white model and Jang Yun-ju were almost certainly altered to give her a more pronounced hourglass figure and long, unblemished legs. Short-statured Korean entertainers like Lee Hyo-ri and Song Hye-gyo have modeled jeans and other apparel, their famously short legs stretched into runway proportions and their flat botttoms given a little boost. If the idea is to attract attention, famous Jang Yun-ju’s face attached to a nearly naked body would get more looks from Koreans of both sexes than the face of an unknown white woman and connect the poster to the TV commercial featuring Jang. I think the primary reason for putting a white face in a life-sized poster depicting a woman with her skirt around her ankles is that Korean society is still ambivalent about seeing images of nearly naked Koreans in public places.


    1. Thanks as always for you comment Sonagi, but that was precisely my point. I passed on Michael Hurt’s 2005 to give an example of the effects of that ambivalence, but didn’t mean to imply that it was also a cause behind the choice of the ethnicity of the model.

      Sorry for any confusion.


  3. Interesting to see it in Korea. I suppose its a retort to all the fetishizing of asian female and the whole white male/ asian female relationship while neutering/desexualizing the azn male in western media. *shrug* Any white male / asian female relationship cant really escape the neo-colonial undertone, its just pervasive whether admitted or not. Current politics makes it different if the white girl is objectified and sexualized, you can subjugate her but you cant subjugate her nation (metaphorically).


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