Korean Sociological Image #65: First Commercial to Positively Feature a Korean Woman with a Non-Korean Man? (2006)

(Source: Paranzui)

Turn on a Korean TV, and you won’t be waiting long before you see a commercial with a Korean man in a relationship with a non-Korean woman. But for a long time, I was only aware of one ever produced with the opposite pairing, which I discussed back when it came out in July last year.

Since then, there has also been at least one music video produced that positively features a Korean woman with non-Korean men (not just the one man in this case!), which you read more about at Mixtapes and Liner Notes and Fanboy vs Fangirl here, here, and here. But again, there’s many many more with the opposite pairing (see here, here, and here for examples). And as far as I know, no more commercials with Korean women hitting on non-Korean men.

It turns out though, that Lee Hyori (이효리) did so back in 2006 in a commercial for Anycall, a mobile phone brand. I must have seen it a hundred times on TV that year, but only ever the fifteen second version, in which the ethnicity of the lucky gentleman at the end was unclear. I would automatically have assumed he was Korean then, but he’s actually Caucasian (with a hint of Latino?), as you can see at 0:27 in the thirty second version above.

As always, I’d be happy to be proven wrong — again(!) — with any further examples of similar pairings. But I doubt I’ll ever receive enough to challenge this clear discrepancy in the Korean media’s representations of different genders and races, which is why I raise it here.

For any readers further interested in why that discrepancy exists, please read last year’s post for more background and many more links.

Update 1) As soon as I’d packed away my netbook and was walking home, I remembered that there was indeed one more example from last year, a promotional video for the 2010 G-20 Seoul Summit. It features a Korean woman and Caucasian man having a traditional Korean wedding, just like I had (the kiss is just for show though—traditional Korean weddings are really quite sombre affairs!):

Update 2) With thanks to Dan for passing it on, here’s a recent commercial for a smartphone, apparently with screen quality so good you’ll be able to see your foreign boyfriend’s bit on the side reflected in his sunglasses:

Until I saw that, I was wondering if the “positively” in the title was a little redundant. But now it seems more apt than ever!

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

7 thoughts on “Korean Sociological Image #65: First Commercial to Positively Feature a Korean Woman with a Non-Korean Man? (2006)

  1. There’s a commercial, one of the “How to Live Smart” ones, airing now that shows a Korean woman in a relation with a foreigner…. who, through the high video quality of the phone is able to see the reflection in his sunglasses, revealing that he’s cheating on her with a blonde bombshell in a yellow bikini.


    1. I’ve been meaning to post about that commercial on here too, James. The commercial also contains the phrase, “당신을 믿고 싶습니다” or something very similar – don’t own a tv so it’s been a while since I’ve seen it. But anyway, it’s a pretty appalling thing to see at half time during the football when you’re the only non-Korean sitting in a large fried chicken place with your ethnic Korean other half.


    2. Thanks for passing that on: I’ve added it to the post.

      On an unrelated note, sorry to everyone for the slow posting and unanswered comments and emails. I was preparing most of last week for a lecture in Daegu last Saturday, then have been struck down with stomach problems ever since (I’ll spare you the graphic details!).


    3. Ha, funnily enough, I just posted about this, tho on Flickr, where I uploaded a capture of some of the 15-sec version. I thought it was a blond, but it was more ambiguous in the shorter, cinema-run version I saw. Or that’s how I remember it.

      Positively indeed…


  2. I feel like they are contradicting themselves. In the video promoting Korea, they are showing a traditional wedding between a Korean lady and a foreigner, yet in the samsung commercial, its almost like they are saying that if one does date a foreigner, they could potentially be screwed over. My sister described the samsung video to me, (she’s in Seoul right now) and couldn’t believe they would use an add like that to promote a phone. What is your take on it Mr. James? (sorry if the Mr. title offends you, I’m not used to calling people by their first name without getting their permission first)


    1. They’re two separate commercials, how on Earth are “they” contradicting themselves? Unless you’re under the impression that some Fu Manchu is under the stairs controlling every commercial that crosses your screen.

      I’m not sure why this type of thing is even an issue when even a “multicultural” nation like the US does not portray Asian male/white female couples in media (not to even mention the possibility of a Asian male/black female couple).


  3. Now that you mention it, I’m noticing more western males in the CFs I watch, usually with their faces obscured, as in this Lee Hyori Isa Knox commercial:


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s