Quick Hit: Advertising a Korean Stewardess School

It’s easy to criticize an industry that – in Korea at least – so needlessly stresses age and appearance, and to consider the young women that aspire to it as hopelessly vain and naive. However, despite these stereotypes, not only do the limited options available to Korean women arguably make stewardessing a rational, adventurous, and even quite rebellious career choice, but Korean airlines even require university degrees from applicants too (and some cabin crew actually have Ph.Ds!).

See the Korea Herald here for more information. Guaranteed, you’ll be much more sympathetic to Korean stewardesses (and hopefuls) after reading it!

Written by me last October, a couple of years after a Qatar Airways-bound student of mine forced me to rethink some of my own assumptions about stewardesses. One of the most intelligent and ambitious 23 year-olds I’ve ever met, I was reminded of her resolution and determination yesterday when I read that Asiana Airlines stewardesses had protested the company’s “sexist guidelines regarding female flight attendants’ appearance”, their union head arguing that:

Flight attendants are not Barbie dolls. We are professionals with diverse characteristics who strive to become successful. We should not be judged by how we appear outside. We cannot be subject to any discrimination at work just because we are women.

If anything, this stress on appearance is confirmed by the following advertisement for a Korea stewardess school, which begins by mentioning the benefits of becoming a stewardess, but then has a promotion about a competition to find the “uniform queen” on the back.

On the other hand, it is just the one ad, so we should be wary of drawing too many conclusions from it. I’m just presenting it here mostly for the sake of readers outside of Korea, who may never have seen a Korean one.

Also, from Korea-based readers, I’d be interested in hearing if any other universities likewise got inundated with other schools’ ads at the end of last semester, how they compare, and how effective you’d think they’d be with students (don’t dismiss the cartoon format though — recall that everything is cute in Korea!):

– If you’re a woman, who doesn’t want to become a stewardess? But there’s probably many women who don’t know what you have to do to prepare to be one (nod nod).

– I thought like that too when I began. I was short, my appearance was just average, my English wasn’t good…could I really do it? I worried a lot about it.

– But now you’re the perfect crew member, despite all that. Unbeliv[able]~!! (I don’t believe you!)

– [Older Sister]!! If you become a crew member, what are the benefits?

– The days off are great

– You get discounts on air travel

– You get global opportunities

– You make lots of money

– You even get support for your children’s tuition

– And lots more…


– So, older sister, how did you prepare? I too absolutely want that challenge!

– I’ll tell you how I did it.

– Okay then! Seonyeong’s stewardess success story, here we go~!!!

Keen eyes will have noticed that that was just Part 1; alas, I don’t have any more in the series, and can’t seem to find them on the school’s website sorry. But here is the back:

The title and first paragraph say:

– Find the Cosea Uniform Queen!!

– Cosea has a school vacation event for students with the dream of becoming crew members!

Next, there’s the details of that event:

– After having a free consultation and an image test, have your picture taken with an instant camera. The best student will win a free course at the school!!

– 1st prize: a free course

– 2nd prize: a set of interview clothes

– 3rd prize: a voucher for a free interview make-up and hair-styling session

– *Everybody that participates will get a personal color image check [James – ???]

Finally, it tells you how to enter the competition. But if you’re interested, then I’m afraid you’re on your own with that!^^

Korean Sociological Image #68: Laughing at the 1970s Fashion-Police

(Sources: left, right)

Remember when the Korean Defense Ministry said it was considering playing girl-groups’ music videos on giant TV screens along the DMZ?

The rationale, according to the official that thought of it, was that “the revealing outfits worn by the performers and their provocative dances could have a considerable impact on North Korean soldiers.”

Alas, nothing came of the idea. But the irony was palpable: in the 1970s, such revealing outfits were deemed subversive by the military government, with ruler-bearing policemen stopping women on the street to measure the length of their skirts (they would also cut men’s hair if it was too long).

This difference is humorously illustrated in Samsung’s 2007 commercial for the Anycall Miniskirt (애니콜 미니스커트), with Jun Ji-hyun (전지현):

It’s disappointing that it was set in the UK though, which never had such ‘fashion-police.’ Why not pick from the wealth of Korean video and imagery from that period? (Just look under “미니스커트 다속” for instance, literally “miniskirt control/supervision/clampdown.”)

My first thought was because the ad is already doing some subtle fashion-policing, through informing the Korean public of the new de facto rules. That would be much less subtle with authentic Korean examples though, and the ensuing social message, however refreshing, would be at odds with the cheerful tone of this one.

On the other hand, we can make allowances for creative license; perhaps the advertisers just wanted a swinging ’60s vibe. Also, it’s not like Koreans themselves aren’t afraid to poke fun at their old, ridiculous laws on miniskirt length (not least because they weren’t removed from the books until as recently as 2006), nor critique modern fashion and body-image ideals.

Still, it is yet another example of a phone literally embodying a woman. As is LG’s recent LTE wireless ad, which isn’t subtle at all:


On the left, the black text reads “If it’s only the shape/appearance of LTE, then it isn’t available everywhere,” while on the right the pink reads “If it’s really LTE, then it’s available in every city.” The headline in the middle reads “But it’s different,” and finally the text at the bottom reads “The one and only LTE, in touch in every city nationwide. Automatic roaming in 220 countries worldwide.”

Personally, I think the execution is flawed—if the woman on the left is supposed to only have the shape and/or appearance of the real LTE (confusedly, “모양” means both), then shouldn’t both women actually look and be clothed exactly the same, with some indication that they’re different for some other reason (say, by having the women on the left scowling)?

Either way, the advertisement’s other message is that the woman on the right, with high-heels, a V-line face, impossibly-long (and uneven!) photoshopped legs, and a dress that only just covers her underwear, is quite literally the modern standard that all agasshis (young women) should adhere to. Jun Ji-hyun’s bobbies would be proud.

(For more posts in the “Korean Sociological Image” series, see here)

Korean Gender Reader


I would comment on this ridiculous rendition of Davichi’s (다비치) Kang Min-kyeong (강민경), but unfortunately two pressing matters(!) prevent me as I type this. In the morning though, I may well submit my daughters’ drawings of her to DHC Korea for its consideration, as surely those would be just as realistic as whatever else it has planned for its latest ad campaign?^^

Seoul Food: Treating Your Idol to Lunch Is the True Test of Fandom (The Wall Street Journal)

Extreme Private Ethos: Japanese Documentaries (Asia Society)

A refreshing approach to condom marketing: an app that keeps you from being walked in on by your parents (Work That Matters)

KPOP and Black Music: Rap (My First Love Story)

How Parents’ Zeal for Education Drives Up Rents (Korea Real Time)

The Nude Collection – An International Artists Community Group Exhibition (Seoul; Social Discourse of Disquiet)

Girls′ Generation’s Jessica Gets a Little Photoshop Lift (Enewsworld; see Omona! for scans)

[Part 1] The Yoke of Korean Women (The Jeju Weekly)

Hey, where’s your skirt? (The Korea Blog)

Foreign Husband Troubles (The Marmot’s Hole)

Women readjusts her curves with green tea (Work That Matters)

Introducing Escher Girls, a Site Dedicated to Superheroine Poses That Warp Spacetime (io9)

Chinese woman sent naked photo by interviewer exposes him online (The Nanfang)

South Korean survey: Appearance-based discrimination is widespread (Asian Correspondent)

Porn and the Peninsula (Via Korea)

International Women’s Day events in Seoul (10 Magazine; Korea Business Central)

Jeremy Lin and debates about Asian masculinity (I’m No Picasso)

Hong Seok Cheon Opens Up About AIDS Scare (Enewsworld)

China to soften its one-child policy slogans, but not the law itself (Yahoo! News; hat tip to Amanda)

Why Aren’t Women in Japan Working? (Gender Across Borders)

Lee Hyori gets criticized over her “belly fat”, proceeds to address the haters (Omona!)

Japanese porn actress Hotaru Akanei’s China university lecture cancelled (Shanghaiist)

School’s Closed, Working Moms Suffer (Korea Real Time)

More babies being born in Korea, and gender disparity among newborns at all-time low (The Hankyoreh)

Hot pants or hot air? Is the sexualization of childhood less of a concern than gender-stereotyping? (The F-Word)

Obesity growing among school students (The Hankyoreh)

Fewest Elementary School Students in Seoul since 1965 (The Chosunilbo)

Company-provided daycare: just for female employees? (On Becoming a Good Korean {Feminist} Wife)

Why did Jun Ji-hyun Have to Hide Her Marriage? (Enewsworld)

(Links are not necessarily endorsements)