“Harmful” Advertisements Surge 3-fold in Online Korean News Media


“Is it true that your hair grows if you have ‘dirty thoughts’?” (2002)

When so many websites struggle to open under the weight of smutty ads, it’s difficult not to think that the Korean internet used to be a much more innocent place.

At the very least, you’d assume exceptions would be made for articles specifically about such ads.

With no apparent sense of irony however, not only does the website today’s article comes from feature camel toes, nude women, and couples in flagrante delicto, but some media companies will even censor photographs in news stories while keeping similar accompanying advertisements intact. Most recently and notoriously perhaps, some websites pixelated the breasts of “Bikini Girl” and her supporters for instance, but not the heaving bosoms used to advertise cosmetic surgery clinics:

Given that, and given how difficult it was to find a news website that didn’t plaster today’s article with such ads, I was very surprised to find that the normally quite alarmist Ministry of Gender Equality and Family found that only 5.5% of registered media companies had them on their websites.

Partially, that low number is explained by the very narrow definitions used, as outlined in the article. But if you take a look at the top of the following table (not — as per usual — mentioned until the final paragraph), which lists total registered media companies, total active sites, total sites with advertisements, and total sites with harmful advertisements respectively, you soon realize that that 5.5% is derived from 176 of 3216 total registered media companies. As a proportion of the 2,158 sites with advertisements however, which is surely a more appropriate measure, it jumps to 8.2% (although that still sounds much too low to me).

Finally, of special interest is how MOGEF calls for (and has recently helped implement) self-regulation by internet companies rather than imposing its own regulation system, which may come as some surprise considering how actively it censors Korean music. But despite its reputation however, in reality MOGEF has very limited powers (and only 0.12% of the total government budget), which I think plays a big role in the zealousness with which it monitors K-pop.

여성가족부 ‘19 광고’ 언론사들 고발 검토 / Ministry of Gender Equality and Family Affairs  Considering Prosecuting Media Companies for “18 and Over Advertisements”

‘유해 광고’ 올해들어 3배 늘어… “자율규제기구 설치 촉구, 광고주 심의 요청” / 3 times more ‘harmful advertisements’ compared to last year…”We strongly recommend advertisers consider establishing a self-regulatory system”

by 최훈길/Choi Hoon-gil

선정적인 내용이 담긴 언론사의 인터넷 광고가 작년에 비해 3배 가량 증가한 것으로 조사됐다. 여성가족부는 언론사의 자율 규제를 우선 촉구하되, 해당 언론사에 대한 고발도 검토하고 해당 광고주에 대한 심의 요청도 추진하기로 했다.

A survey has shown that media companies display 3 times more sexually suggestive internet advertisements compared to last year. The Ministry of Gender Equality and Family (MOGEF) recommends that media companies self-regulate themselves, and is considering prosecuting both offending media companies and advertisers themselves.


여성가족부가 11일 발표한 ‘인터넷 신문의 청소년 유해광고 유통 현황 모니터링 결과’에 따르면, 올해 유해성 광고는 176개(5.5%)로 작년 유해성 광고 62개(2.5%)보다 3배가량 늘었다. 한 인터넷 신문은 성인용품 사이트 등 청소년 유해 매체물 광고를 성인 인증 없이 게재해 정보통신망법을 위반했다. 유해성 광고는 네트워크 광고의 일종으로, 상당수가 의료쪽 광고이며 문구나 이미지가 선정적이어서 ‘혐오 광고’로도 불린다.

On the 11th of June, MOGEF announced the results of their survey “The present situation of the circulation of internet newspapers’ harmful advertisements among teenagers”, according to which there were 176 sites with harmful ads (5.5%) among those surveyed, roughly 3 times more than last years’ 62 (2.5%) [James — considering the different numbers of sites examined, proportionately there were really only 2.2 times as many]. Among other advertisements harmful to teenagers, one internet newspaper had an advertisement for a sex products site that could be accessed without age verification, which violated the Information and Communications Network Law. Harmful advertisements are a kind of internet advertisement called “disgusting advertisements” [James – called that by who?]; the majority have sexually-suggestive images and terms and/or refer to sexually-related medical procedures.

176개 인터넷 신문 중 20개 인터넷 신문이 전체 유해성 광고물(915건)의 50.3%(406건)을 노출하고 있었다. 여성 가족부는 해당 언론사 실명을 공개하지 않았다. 청소년매체환경과 관계자는 “인터넷 점유율이 높은 곳들이 유해성 광고가 많았고 스포츠, 연예 신문들이 많았다”며 “고발을 검토하는 인터넷 언론사는 종이 신문을 발행하지 않는 곳으로 잘 알려진 언론사는 아니다”라고 설명했다.

Out of the 176 internet newspapers that were found to have harmful advertisements, 20 had more than half of their total advertisements, 406 out of 915 (50.3%), taken up by them. MOGEF didn’t reveal the offending media companies’ names. An official in the Division of Youth Media Environment of MOGEF said: “The internet sites which had the highest number of harmful advertisements were sports and entertainment sites, and those with a lot of traffic,” and added that “the news sites which we are considering prosecuting are not well-known and don’t publish physical newspapers.”


해당 유해 광고의 내용은 성행위·성기표현 문구(21.2%)가 가장 많았고, 성적욕구 자극문구(17.7%), 가슴 부위 노출(17.4%), 성행위·성기 관련 묘사(15.8%), 허벅지·둔부 노출(14.5%) 순이었다. 해당 광고주는 성기능 식품(21.%) 관련 업체가 가장 많았고, 비뇨기과(17.3%), 건강보조식품(15.6%), 성기능 개선용품(12.8%), 성형외과(6.8%) 광고주 순이었다.

Of the harmful advertisements, 21.2% — the highest — had expressions related to sex acts or genitalia, 17.7% had expressions designed to arouse sexual desire [James — e.g. “할래/Do you want to do it?], 17.4% exposed the breasts, 15.8% had descriptions of sex acts or genitalia, and 14.5% exposed the thighs or buttocks. Of the advertisers themselves, 21% were selling sexual function products [James — like Viagra?], 17.3% urology services, 15.6% health assistance products, 12.8% products designed to improve sexual performance [James —  how are those different to “sexual function products”?], and 6.8% cosmetic surgery procedures.

여성가족부는 작년과 비교해 유해 광고는 늘었지만 법 위반 언론사들이 대폭 감소한 것을 감안해, 언론사에는 우선 자율 규제를 촉구하겠다는 입장이다. 청소년매체환경과 관계자는 “작년에 34개 언론사가 법을 위반했는데 올해에는 다 시정됐다”며 “언론사들을 직접 규제하기 보다는 인터넷신문협회 등에 자율규제기구인 인터넷신문광고심의위원회의 설치를 촉구하겠다”고 밝혔다.

Although MOGEF points out that the numbers of harmful advertisements have increased since last year, the fact that there are actually less media companies breaking the law also needs to be taken into consideration, so first MOGEF is going ask media companies to regulate themselves. The official in the Division of Youth Media Environment continued: “The 34 media companies that broke the the Information and Communications Network Law last year have all since rectified their mistakes,” and so “a self-regulatory system is preferable to direct regulation, and we demand that the Korean Internet Newspaper Association and so on establish an internet newspaper advertisement consideration committee.”


이 관계자는 “이번에 법 위반으로 적발된 언론사에도 시정 조치를 우선 요구하고, 시정이 안 될 경우 형사고발을 할 것”이며 “유해성 광고를 의뢰하는 광고주 사이트에 대해서는 방송통신심의위원회에 유해성 심의 요청을 할 것”이라고 말했다. 언론사에 대한 형사 고발 검토와 광고주에 대한 심의 요청은 올해 처음으로 시행되는 조치다.

Also: “In this case, first we demand that measures are taken to rectify the mistakes of offending media companies, and if this is not done we will consider prosecuting them,” and forward their harmful advertisements to the Korean Communications Standards Commission for consideration. These steps are being enforced this year for the first time.”

한편, 이번 조사는 지난 3월7일부터 5월21일까지 문화체육관광부에 등록된 3216개 인터넷 신문(지난 2월말 기준)의 메인 페이지 및 10개 기사면을 점검한 것이다. 여성가족부는 작년에도 해당 조사를 했으며, 조사 이후 한국인터넷신문협회와 한국온라인신문협회는 ‘인터넷신문광고 자율규제 가이드라인’을 제정한 바 있다. 청소년매체환경과 관계자는 “낙인 효과를 고려해 이번에는 언론사 이름을 비공개로 했다”며 “올해 하반기나 내년에 또 조사를 할 것”이라고 말했다.

The survey, of 3216 sites registered with the Ministry of Culture, Sports, and Tourism (as of February) was conducted the 7th of March to the 21st of May this year, and examined the main pages and 10 [random?] posts of each. Last year’s survey was conducted by MOGEF, after which the “Internet Advertisements Self-regulation Guidelines” were established with the Korean Internet Newspaper Association and the Korean Online Newspaper Association [James — ironically, Firefox blocks the latter as a dangerous site!]. The official in the Division of Youth Media Environment of MOGEF explained that “because of the harm to their reputations that would come with naming the offending media companies, that information shall be kept private”, and that “a similar survey will be completed in the second half of this year.” (end)

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 )

Facebook photo

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

Connecting to %s