From the accompanying email (slightly edited by me):
…I am emailing on behalf of WAHS to inform you of an upcoming international conference in Dubai on Hallyu Studies. The conference, World Congress on Hallyu, is the third of its kind and aims to bring together academics, students, and organizations who have an interest in the phenomenon of the Korean wave, known as Hallyu. Currently, we have branches of research in the Middle East, Southeast Asia, North America, and Europe.
I have a attached a flyer for an official “call for papers” for undergraduate and graduate students. I hope that you can pass it along to students who would be interested in submitting to the conference or contest. The undergraduate student essay winners are eligible to win a cash prize for their research, while graduate students are eligible for free airfare and accommodation to the conference to present their research. Graduate students seriously interested in attending are urged to sign up for a WAHS membership to receive a discount conference entrance fee and possible stipends for our future spring conference.
“And now we go to our leader’s house, where earlier today, a spontaneous demonstration took place.”
“A grateful duck has written a new song for our beloved leader, and she is here joined by the chorus of the Animal Guard!”
No? I assure you, it’s much funnier in the officious, slightly hungover voice of the pig making the announcement. But the fact remains: promotions like Lotte’s are like theaters of the absurd. Because really: what was the point of the models exactly?
Was it because otherwise disinterested heterosexual men and lesbians feel more patriotic if they see attractive women? Was it because they inspire people to learn more about Korea’s history, and to be more concerned about Korea’s image abroad? Was it because other less objectifying, less patronizing methods have been tried and failed?
No? Then why are young female models so routinely used to promote nationalist causes in Korea?
As if Lotte Group was posing the questions to news outlets itself, perhaps half ofall theillustrated newsarticles on its tower flag I quickly surveyed didn’t even mention the models at all. So too the first English article I encountered, which instead offered a borderline advertorial on its deep numerical symbolism.
It’s almost as if wrapping themselves up in the national flag and posing in front of highly symbolic, highly controversial chaebol mega-projects is just something young women spontaneously like to do.
“Lotte Group’s solution to weaken public opposition to its power: patriotic marketing + sexual objectification = a tall building with the flag and thin models wearing flags. In Korea, patriotism is used like this. Oh, how bold!”
“Who are these women? Don’t use yourselves as tools of sexual objectification. Especially on a meaningful day like today. How come you can use our national flag like that, which was used to support and give courage to the Korean independence movement?”
Which was in reaction to:
핫팬츠 입은 여성들이 태극기를 치마처럼 두르고.유사시 한국의 공군기 작전수행에 문제를 일으킬수있다는 의혹을 사는 급조된 자사의 초고층 빌딩앞에서.이제와 대한민국 외치는 롯데그룹이다.홍보전략마저도 왜색적.얍삽하다 http://t.co/emcRWlbW3v
“[Here’s some] women in hot pants wearing the Korean flag like a skirt, in front of the Lotte Tower, which has been accused of causing problems with the the air force’s flight paths and [consequently] implementation of strategy during wartime. How wily: even Lotte Group’s promotion strategy is Japanese-orientated.” [James — Eh? Because Japan would be the enemy in the event of a war? And surely he means the building location, rather than the promotion?]
Sigh. Of course, I don’t pretend for a moment that a twitter wordsearch represents everything being spoken about a subject. So I’m sure that, somewhere, people are asking such questions as:
Why is it almost always only young female models are ever chosen for promotions like these?
Why only models with a very narrow range of body types?
What kind of gender and sexual roles are they promoting, when women are mere decorations for a cause?
As always, I’d be grateful for any pointers to where people are doing so. But, if it turns out people aren’t really talking about such a widespread phenomenon or belief though, then that’s precisely why we should look more closely at it. Because, as Amy Wharton explains in her book The Sociology of Gender: An Introduction to Theory and Research (2005):
…understanding gender requires us to go beyond the obvious and to reconsider issues we may think are self-evident and already well understood. Challenging the taken-for-granted is one essential component of the sociological perspective. In fact, sociologists argue that what people view as unproblematic and accept as “the way things are” may be most in need of close, systematic scrutiny.
@ASAnews Why I #lovesociology: because thinking critically has ruined approximately 90% of my daily small talk.
So to encourage further conversation along those lines, and to highlight the issues raised by this example, next month I’ll examine another highly symbolic instance of Korean “patriotic marketing [through] sexual objectification” then demonstrating why it’s more problematic than it may at first appear (apologies for the split, but it’s necessary for 5000 words). Until then, I appreciate hearing your thoughts on the flag-wearing promotions, and any other questions they raise.
I’ve been asked to pass on the following by Dr. Daniel Nehring, a British sociology lecturer:
My project looks at the experiences of Korean-Western couples currently living in Korea, of any sexual orientation. It involves conversational interviews of approximately one hour, covering various aspects of everyday life in a transnational relationship; I interview the Western participants in English, while my Korean (female) colleague interviews the Korean participants in Korean. I work according to the code of ethical conduct of the British Sociological Association, so participation is confidential and anonymous, which includes not divulging one partner’s responses to the other(!). I am looking for participants aged 25 to 45 who are settled in Korea and currently live in a long-term transnational relationships. I could meet participants in a place of their choice; alternatively, the interview(s) could take place on Skype. I would be happy to answer any further questions about my research; my e-mail address is email@example.com.
I’d add that I’ve had the pleasure of meeting Daniel several times, and that he has conducted similar projects in Mexico and China; see here for one of his journal articles on the latter, which is still ongoing, while the Mexican interviews ultimately became part of a book.