(Source: Busan Focus, p. 15, July 12 2011)
It’s strange I know, and it makes me sound facetious too. But I just can’t help it — every time I see excessive photoshopping, I think of Nazis.
Specifically, I think of how pervasive antisemitism in the Wiemar Republic undergirded their rise. As Daniel Goldhagen wrote in Hitler’s Willing Executioners: Ordinary Germans and the Holocaust (my emphasis):
A general problem in uncovering lost cultural axioms and cognitive orientations of societies since gone or transformed is that they are often not articulated as clearly, frequently, or loudly as their importance for the life of a given society and its individual members might suggest. In the words of one student of German attitudes during the Nazi period, “to be an anti-Semite in Hitler’s Germany was so commonplace as to go practically unnoticed.” Notions fundamental to the dominant worldview and operation of a society, precisely because they are taken for granted, often are not expressed in a manner commensurate with their prominence and significance or, when uttered, seen as worthy by others to be noted and recorded. (Vintage Books Edition, 1997, p.32)
Or in other words, antisemitism was considered a normal, natural, and pervasive part of daily life. So, very few people would ever have been motivated to comment on it, let alone critique it.
Now, I’m no expert on German history, and Goldhagen’s views remain controversial. But the abstract idea itself — that if something is ubiquitous in a society, but people aren’t discussing it, then it’s logical to assume that its presence is uncontroversial — remains valid, and can be applied in different contexts.
Herein lies the connection with photosopping in Korea, as excessive…nay, often simply absurd photoshopping is ubiquitous in advertisements here, and which — lest anyone underestimate their impact — people see between 500 and 1000 of a day. In particular, the advertisements above and below for instance, from the free daily Focus, would have been seen by millions of subway commuters daily, with the latter at least running for months last year.
(Source: Seoul Focus, May 17 2011, p. 13)
Yet while Koreans are indeed noticing and talking about that, when I’ve investigated I’ve never found any real critique of the practice of photoshopping itself, even when the writer(s) themselves argued that the models concerned didn’t need it.
Does this mean I’ve simply been looking in the wrong places? I sincerely hope so, and I’d be eternally grateful if anyone could point out any critiques that I’ve overlooked. But still: loath as I am to perpetuate the stereotype that Korea is forever behind the West, the fact that I’m having any difficulty at all is surely telling.
In short, there’s simply no evidence of a widespread backlash emerging against photoshopping here, unlike in Western countries.
Why? That’s an other issue, but I think that probably the biggest factor is that Korea is one of only two countries in the OECD (the other is Japan) that requires photographs on resumes, giving rise to a photoshopper on almost every block. And if photoshopping can get you a job, then I’m sure it can sound very indulgent, even naive to focus on its negatives so.
On the other hand, I often point out how quickly Korea is changing, and which is what makes it so exciting to live here and to study. I remain optimistic that much more awareness and concern will emerge in the next five years or so.
On that note, I’m happy to report that I have actually found a Korean critic, albeit over two years since I first used that quote from Goldhagen(!), and I’ve translated his blog post below. His name is Tam Jin-gang (탐진강), and his blog’s name is Stories about living in the world with Tam Jin-gang (탐진강의 함께 사는 세상 이야기). Relieved and ecstatic as I am to find his post though (and his blog as a whole looks very interesting too), I don’t agree with everything he says, and so I’ve interspersed some of my own quick comments with the translation (update — in retrospect, this format makes me sound a little snarky somehow; that wasn’t my intention!):
영화 짐승 하의실종 신세경, 광고 각선미 비교해보니…스타 연예인의 포토샵 성형 미인 실태는?
Compare Shin Se-kyung wearing hot-pants in The Beast to her bodyline in ads…for stars and entertainers, is it because of photoshop that they’re beauties?
우연히 포털에서 배우 신세경이 영화 시사회에 등장한 모습의 사진을 봤습니다. 서울 을지로 메가박스 동대문에서 영화 ‘짐승’ 시사회를 가진 것이더군요. 신세경 하면 시트콤 ‘지붕뚫고 하이킥’의 청순한 장면이 떠오를 정도입니다.
When I think of Shin Se-kyung, the first thing comes to mind is her innocent image from the sitcom High Kick Through the Roof. Then, accidentally, I saw a picture of her that was taken at the premiere of The Beast, held at Dongdaemun Megabox in Eujiro in Seoul.
영화 ‘짐승’은 세상에 단 하나뿐인 여동생이 갑자기 실종되자 그녀의 실종 흔적을 좇으며 점차 짐승으로 변해가는 한 남자의 외로운 사투를 그린 리얼 카리스마 액션 영화라고 합니다. 요즘 ‘백지영의 남자’로 알려진 연하 남친 정석원이 주인공이라 세간의 관심사로 떠오르고 있지요.
In this charismatic action movie, the younger (and only) sister of the main character suddenly disappears, and he becomes almost like a beast as he chases after traces of her, in a lonely and desperate struggle. He is played by Jung Sok-won, the younger boyfriend of Baek Ji-young, and is a big topic of gossip these days.
그런데 이번 영화 시사회에서 신세경의 사진은 평소와 달리 소위 하의실종 패션을 보여주었습니다. 대다수 언론 매체들은 아찔한 하의실종 패션이라는 식으로 표현을 했습니다. 또 다른 매체들는 ‘은근 튼실한 허벅지’라거나 ‘꿀벅지’라고 표현도 했더군요. 신세경의 사진을 본 순간 의류 광고에서 모습과 차이가 있다는 생각이 스쳤습니다.
At the movie premiere, Shin Se-kyung wore so-called “disappearing lower-body fashion”, which she doesn’t usually. So, most news reporters mentioned it, speaking of how bewitching she looked in it, while others spoke of her ever so slightly thick, firm thighs, or of her “honey thighs”. But then I saw a difference between the pictures of her at the premiere, and how she looked in advertisements.
영화 시사회에 나온 신세경의 허벅지에 놀랐다 /I was surprised at how her thighs looked at the movie premiere
신세경의 실제 사진은 광고에서 각선미와는 너무 달랐기 때문이지요. 한편으로 과거 신비주의 이미지가 강했던 터라 실제의 모습과 차이도 느껴졌습니다. 그래서 신세경이 의류모델로 나왔던 사진과 비교를 해봤습니다. 최근 모 여성의류 모델 사진의 경우 청순 글래머로 원조 베이글려 다운 면모를 과시하며 남성팬들의 마음을 사로잡았다며 심지어 ‘하의실종 패션 종결자’라는 수식어도 붙어있더군요.
[I was so surprised] because the pictures of what she looks like in real life were just so different (partially, because she has deliberately maintained a very mysterious image previously). So, I compared pictures of her modeling clothes to them. In one recent shoot, as THE original “bagel girl”, she captured male fans’ hearts by showing off her “innocent glamor”. And now with these latest shots from the premiere, she has even been given the label “disappearing lower body fashion ender” too [James – if someone is labeled the “ender” in something, he or she is considered the best in it, “ending” the competition so to speak].
물론 의류모델로서 신세경의 란제리룩 사진 모습은 날씬한 S라인 몸매는 물론 다리도 잘 빠진 각선미를 자랑했습니다. 영화 짐승 시사회의 현실 사진과는 크게 달랐던 것이지요. 결국 광고 사진은 포토샵에 의해 크게 보정된 것이었습니다. 광고 속 스타들의 모습이 포토샵에 의해 보정된다는 정도는 알고 있었지만 이렇게 심할 것이라고는 생각하지 못했습니다. 지금까지는 약간 보정하는 수준이라고 대수롭지 않게 치부했습니다.
As a clothing model, of course Shin Se-kyung had to show off her slender S-line when she did a lingerie photoshoot. But the resulting pictures were very different to those taken of her at the premiere of The Beast, because it turns out that the advertisements were heavily photoshopped. While this happens in all advertisements of course, I had no idea that it was done to quite that degree, and had assumed until now that it was only done for the sake of minor retouching and so on.
지난 청바지 광고에서도 신세경의 모습은 놀랍게 달랐습니다. 완벽한 몸매와 각선미를 보여주고 있더군요. 그러나 실제 신세경의 모습과 너무 차이가 크다는 것을 안 상태에서는 실망감이 앞섰습니다. 신세경의 잘못은 아니겠지요. 의류회사들이 스타 연예인을 내세워 광고를 하면서 포토샵을 심하게 하여 대중들에게 눈속임을 하는 것이 더 문제이겠지요.
I was disappointed with this jeans advertisement of hers also [James – the second set of images below], because now I knew that her perfect body and bodyline in it were so different to the reality. But this is not her fault. Rather, it is a problem of clothing companies deceiving the public through hiring top stars and then photoshopping their images so much.
그렇지만 실제와 다른 스타 연예인들의 포토샵 광고로 대중들을 기만하는 것은 다시 심하지 않나 싶습니다. 일부 대중들이나 청소년들이 광고 속 이미지만 보고 다이어트를 하다가 오히려 건강을 해치는 경우도 발생하고 있다고 합니다. 광고가 아무리 믿을 수 없다고 하더라도 여전히 대중들은 광고에 현혹돼 현실과 이상의 차이를 구분하지 못하는 경우가 허다합니다.
Some members of the public and teenagers diet after seeing such images in advertisements, and they can even harm themselves in doing so. So, however unbelievable the ads are, they can still blind and dazzle some people, who don’t realize how different to reality they are.
스타 연예인들의 광고와 화보, 포토샵의 힘이었다? / Stars’ advertisements and photoshoots are due to the power of photoshop?
사실 스타 연예인들의 외모는 이제 성형 미인이라는 말이 나올 정도로 일상화되어 있습니다. 그렇다보니 광고에서의 포토샵 보정은 당연한 듯히 비추어지기도 합니다. 포토샵 미인 시대라고 할까요. 스타 연예인들에 대한 포토샵 문제는 이미 네티즌들과 일부 언론에 공개되기도 했더군요. 가령 배우 신민아의 모 전자제품 광고에 나온 S라인 몸매가 포토샵에 의한 것이라는 사진 비교가 있었습니다. 그렇지만 신민아는 기본적으로 몸매가 우월한 편이었으며 다른 연예인의 포토샵 보정에 비해 애교 수준이기는 하더군요.
Actually, these days stars get cosmetic surgery to the extent that people think it’s normal for them, and that that is what’s responsible for their attractive appearance. Because of that, having their appearance altered by photoshop in ads is also seen as normal [James – a bit of a leap?]. Is this the age of the photoshop beauty then?
The media and the public are already talking about excessive photoshop [James – I beg to differ!!]. For example, comparing Shin Min-a’s ad for a notebook computer with an unaltered picture of her taken during the photoshoot [James – again, the second set of images below], you can see that she has been given more of an S-line in the former. However, she already has a good body, so this is only mild photoshopping compared to other examples.
지난해 방송된 ‘톱스타도 피해갈 수 없는 보정 작업의 힘’이라는 내용을 보면 연예인들의 포토샵 신공은 정말 다양했습니다. 당시 영상 속에는 ‘신이 내린 몸매’ 찬사를 받았던 제시카 고메즈를 비롯해 김태희, 이효리, 신세경 등 톱스타들의 비포 앤 애프터(before and after)가 담겨 있었지요. 김태희, 김희애, 오연수는 얼굴 주름을 없애 깨끗한 피부로 보정했고 제시카 고메즈는 배와 허벅지, 팔뚝의 군살을 제거해 완벽 몸매로 재탄생시켰더군요. 제시카 고메즈는 그나마 요즘 ‘댄싱 위드 더 스타’에 나오면서 과거에 비해 나아졌습니다.
Last year, there was a TV show titled “Even top stars can’t avoid the power of adjustment”, which showed various kinds of photoshopping examples. In addition to those of Jessica Gomes, at that time described as being an angel with “a body that was a gift from God”, there were before and after pictures of Kim Tae-hee, Lee Hyori, Shin Se-kyung, and so on. Kim Tae-hee, Kim hee-ae, and Oh Yeon-su had the wrinkles on their faces removed and their skin made clearer, while Jessica Gomes had fat removed from her stomach, thighs, and upper arms (although she has lost some weight since then, and so really does look a lot like the altered image now).
이 뿐이 아니었습니다. 이효리, 송혜교, 신세경은 다리를 길게 늘려 하반신 콤플렉스를 극복한 포토샵이 눈길을 끌었습니다. 실제와 달리 아예 몸매가 바뀐 것이지요. 이런 상황을 보면 얼굴 주름이나 잡티를 없앤 경우는 오히려 정직한 편에 속한 셈입니다. 결국 스타 연예인들의 사진 모습은 포토샵의 힘이었습니다. 대중들에게 예쁘고 멋진 모습을 보여주고 싶은 연예인들의 심정도 이해하지만 실제와 완전히 달라진 정도라면 문제가 있다 하겠지요.
And that’s not all. Taking account of their short legs complexes, Lee Hyori, Song Hye-gyo, and Shin Se-kyung had their legs and lower half considerably lengthened [James – while many women have indeed told me that they don’t understand men’s attraction to them, being so short and all, I’ve never heard that they themselves have complexes about their height]. They looked like they had completely new bodies. Compared to this, just clearing up moles and dark patches from a star’s skin is nothing.
In the end, star’s bodies in photographs are entirely due to the power of photoshop. While it’s understandable that stars want to look pretty in front of the public, changing their bodies to this degree is a problem.
지나친 포토샵 보정은 스타의 이미지에 되레 역풍을 초래할 수 있습니다. 대중들은 실제와 다른 사실을 알게 되면 사기당한 기분일 수 있겠지요. 따라서 포토샵 보정을 하더라도 자연스러운 상태를 지키는 선에서 약간만 하는 것이 좋겠습니다. 신세경과 신민아의 포토샵 차이는 자연스러움에 있겠지요. 신세경의 각선미와 몸매가 과도하게 보정됐다면 신민아는 허리 부분만 조금 보정된 것이라 눈에 덜 띄는 것이지요.
Excessive, extreme photoshopping can have its drawbacks. If the public realize how different photoshopped images are to the reality, they can feel betrayed. So, if it is to be done, it is best to keep things looking natural, only changing a little. [Indeed], the difference between Shin Se-kyung’s and Shin Min-a’s pictures are their naturalness. The former’s body has been changed out of all recognition, whereas the latter has only had a little done to her waist [James – I agree with the argument, but not the specific example]:
스타 연예인이라고 모두가 일명 뽀샵, 즉 포토샵에만 의존하는 것은 아닙니다. 무결점의 완벽한 S라인과 각선미를 보여주는 연예인도 많습니다. 김사랑, 박한별, 박가희, 한예슬, 유인나 등 연예인은 사진 화보와 실제 몸매가 크게 다르지 않습니다. 진정한 몸매나 우월한 기럭지의 연예인들이지요. 포토샵의 위대한 힘을 빌리지 않아도 된다는 점에서 이들은 축복받은 몸매인 것이지요. 그렇다보니 몸매가 안되는 연예인은 성형이나 포토샵의 유혹을 받는지도 모릅니다.
Not all stars and entertainers rely on photoshop. There are many that naturally have perfect S-lines. Pictures of Park Han-byul (left, below), Kim Sa-rang (right, below), Park Kahi, Han Yae-seul, Yoo In-na, and so on aren’t dramatically different to how they appear in real life. They are not only genuinely tall, but are blessed with good bodies that don’t require photoshop, whereas those that are neither are so tempted by photoshop and cosmetic surgery [James – I think this blaming is misplaced, and more than a little unfair. How much control do stars — “naturally beautiful” or otherwise — really have over how much advertisers photoshop them?].
인공 인조미인 보다 진정성있는 모습이 더 소중한 이유 / The reason why someone that shows their true colors is more valuable than a fake
실제로 광고사진 전문 스튜디오에서는 놀라운 일이 벌어진다고 합니다. 요즘 스타들은 얼굴만 빌리고 몸은 아예 보정작업을 통해 다른 사람으로 바꾸는 사례가 다반사라는 것이지요. 광고주가 원하는 얼굴과 체형의 모델을 구하기 어렵거나 스타 모델이 과도한 욕심으로 무리수를 두는 경우라고 합니다. 결국 진실의 문이 열리게 되면 뽀샵의 결과로 인해 웃음거리로 전락할 수 있는 경우입니다.
A strange thing happens in the studios where photoshoots for ads take place. These days, it is common for advertisers to photoshop a model’s head onto an entirely different person’s body. Either because they’re looking for a specific head and body type, but the model doesn’t have both, or because the model asks for it. If people knew about this, the models would be a laughing stock [James – I’m very very dubious about this. Not only is no evidence provided for the claim, but such examples would easily stand out, especially considering Korean photoshoppers’ extremely low standards for subtlety].
이제는 뽀샵 사진 문제는 스타 연예인만의 일도 아닙니다. 디지털 사진 이미지 기술이 발달하면서 일반 대중들도 주변에서 쉽게 포토샵 사진 작업을 할 수 있게 됐습니다. 길거리 사진관은 물론 일반 사람들도 PC에서 포토샵을 통한 보정을 하는 시대이니까요. 그러다보니 과도한 사진 보정으로 실물과 달라 소개팅에 나온 사람을 몰라보는 경우도 있었다고 합니다. 제가 아는 지인은 여권 사진을 찍었는데 사진관에서 턱을 심하게 깎은 보정 사진을 내줘 당황했다고 하더군요. 혹시 공항 검색대에서 잘못될까 두려워 다시 사진을 찍었다는 우스개 사연도 있습니다.
And these days, it’s not just stars that use photoshop. Digital imagining technology has so developed that even members of the general public don’t have to go to a photographer to have their images retouched, but can do themselves on their own PCs instead. As a result, people are starting to arrange dates over the internet but can’t recognize the other person when they finally meet, their online images being so different to the reality. Also, I personally have a friend [James – the writer doesn’t say if it’s a man or woman, but I’m going to assume the latter — V-lines are still generally considered to be a female thing, although advertisers are hoping to change this] who had so much shaved off her jaw in her passport photos that she was worried that her passport wouldn’t be accepted if she ever traveled overseas, and so she ended up getting new ones instead [James – there are many similar stories in the comments to the post on resume photographs].
청소년들 중에는 포토샵 사진 속 스타 연예인 몸매를 만들기 위해 과도한 다이어트에 나선 일도 있습니다. 건강이 우선인데 너무 심한 다이어트로 후유증에 시달리기도 하더군요. 스타 중에도 갑작스런 폭풍 다이어트로 얼굴이 쭈글쭈글해져 늙어버린 사례도 있었지요. 우리나라가 성형과 포토샵에 의해 인공 인조인간 증후군에 시달리고 있지 않나 싶기도 합니다. 스타 연예인들의 모습을 보고 따라하는 청소년들 탓만 할 수 없겠지요. 아직 제대로 가치관이 서지않은 아이들이 단지 포토샵 사진에 의존해 현실과 이상의 차이에서 혼란을 겪지 않도록 사회가 바로잡아줄 필요는 있다 하겠습니다.
In order to get bodies of their favorite stars, teenagers are dieting excessively. But their health should come first, and these diets are having serious side effects, while stars themselves too can get wrinkly skin if they diet too abruptly.
Due to cosmetic surgery and photoshop, I feel that Korea is suffering from a kind of artificial human syndrome. And we can’t just blame it all on teenagers following their idols. Yet we do still have to instill the right values in them, so they realize the huge difference between the reality and the “ideal” bodies presented in ads.
너무나 일상처럼 다가온 포토샵 사진 시대가 좋은 점도 있지만 사실을 왜곡하는 문제도 큰 것 같습니다. 잡티 제거 수준이 아니라 몸매 전체를 바꿔버리는 포토샵 성형이라면 더욱 문제이겠지요. 실제로 스타 연예인들이 포토샵의 힘에 의존해 변신을 하면서 청소년들도 아무 거리낌없이 뽀샵에 나서기도 합니다. 그러나 사실이 아닌 거짓의 모습은 결국 스스로에게 독이 될 수 있다는 것을 명심해야 겠습니다. 포토샵이 아니라 스스로 갖고 있는 자신만의 개성과 아름다움에 자신감을 갖는 것이 좋겠습니다. 그리고 스타 연예인들도 포토샵의 힘을 빌어 거짓과 위선의 미를 찾기 보다 진실하고 진정성있는 모습이 더 아름답다는 것을 알았으면 합니다.
Photoshop has become part of daily life, and does have its good point, but the distortion of reality is a big problem. Especially because it’s not just removing the odd blemish here and there, but changing people’s who bodies, as if it were a virtual means of cosmetic surgery. Accordingly, teenagers are photoshopping themselves too.
However, they have to remember that those images too aren’t real, but are lies, and that eventually they will be like a poison to themselves. Instead, they should have confidence in their own special personalities and beauty. Likewise, start and entertainers should be more genuine, and realize that they look more beautiful when they show their true colors, rather than relying on lies and hypocrisy (end).
14 thoughts on “Excessive Photoshopping in Korean Ads: A Korean Critique”
Google “photoshopping heads onto models bodies.” There’s a plethora of examples where Western publishers have placed models’ and celebrities’ heads on other bodies. I wouldn’t be surprised that Korean ad companies are doing the same. I suspect that the only reason bad photoshopping is more obvious in Korea is because there are more rush jobs and a higher churn rate in the ad campaigns. It’s not really a question of technical competence, especially since it’s a competitive industry here for every photography studio (due to resume photos, as you rightly noted) .
Sorry — yes, now that you mention it, I remember that I’ve seen plenty of examples myself too. I still think it’s pretty obvious when it’s been done though, although maybe I’m just saying that because I’ve only ever seen them on sites like Photoshop disasters. So I’ll change my mind if anyone ever shows me an example where you can’t tell.
But I completely disagree that the bad photoshopping is more obvious in Korea because of more rush jobs and so on. After all, we’re talking about something very common here, not a glaring exception here and there. And even with Koreans’ penchant for rushing things because of doing everything at the last minute, I can’t imagine that multi-million dollar, several month-long ad campaigns like that for G.na in the post are dependent on someone slapping the images together on their computer the night before. Seriously, with 2/3rds of Korean ads having celebrities, all of whom require big cheques for their endorsements, it would just be bizarre if advertisers consistently ruined their huge investments by scrimping on photoshopping (although it does happen now and then of course).
a g.na tag without even a mention of her name in the article. oh what an irony. :p
Not sure how it’s an “irony” myself sorry. Anyway, it’s just there because in an earlier draft of the post, I talked much more about her ads for Juvis Diet, and forgot to remove the tag once I rewrote it. I’ll do it now then.
I never heard of this knd of mania before getting into Kdramas. It’s freaky to quite honest, and I would imagine at times debilitating for anyone going under the knife to tranform their features because the “real” person is not seen. Face-off does not even begin to describe how messed up I think societies are becoming….
It reminds me of that J-Bond movie w/Halle Berry where the Korean antagonist becomes a white guy and I thought, how odd. Why make a movie about “that”? Now, I knows….
So those perfectly smooth knees are not real? What a disappointment.
How fitting aye…”New Israeli Law Bans Underweight Models In Ads, Undisclosed Airbrushing”
“The legislation passed Monday aims to put a stop to the extremes, and by extension ease the pressure on youngsters to emulate the skin-and-bones models, often resulting in dangerous eating disorders.”
“Also, any advertisement published for the Israeli market must have a clearly written notice disclosing if its models were made to look thinner by digital manipulation. The law does not apply to foreign publications sold in Israel.
In Israel, about 2 percent of girls between 14 and 18 have severe eating disorders, a rate similar to other developed countries, experts said.”
That sounds like a reasonable thing to do, but as a young woman I can guarantee you that even if we knew they were photoshopped, the most competitive of us would still want to look like the image. It’s not so much the reality of the model displayed, as the striving to be as much like the ‘ideal’ (photoshopped) display as possible. Not to say that this law is not a good idea.
Do you ever feel like shoving a copy of “The Beauty Myth” down peoples’ throats? God knows I do (I’m Korean, by the way).
Truth be told, I haven’t read it – I do have a copy, but it’s sitting along with approximately 850 other books in my mother’s spare room in New Zealand(!), and I won’t have the money to ship them to Korea anytime soon (only been wanting to do so for 12 years now though…sigh).
I should just go out a buy a copy I then I guess. I worry though: do you think it’s aged well in 21 years? And btw, do you know if it was translated into Korean (back in 1991 when it first came out, or the 2nd edition in 2002)? Just curious!
It doesn’t look like there’s a translation available in Korean, which is a shame…
It’s a bit of a controversial book (some argue about how her figures were calculated) but it’s well worth the read, and I feel it’s especially applicable to Korea (although that’s not at all to say the problem is irrelevant in other countries).
It’s essentially one of the bases of third-wave feminism, so you might already be familiar with her arguments. But in any case, I would definitely recommend it to everybody. Hope that answered your question!