“Body Changing” Diet-Drink Generously Donated to High School Students

Estimated reading time: 4 minutes. (Source)

Young Korean women—not men—are the only demographic in the OECD that are getting more underweight than obese.

Call me making a mountain out of a molehill, but diet-drink companies being allowed to donate their product to teens, out of supposed concerns for their heath? And plastering their classrooms with ads of heavily photoshopped women in the process? Those may just have something to do with that:

청정원 홍초가 수험생 여러분을 응원합니다 / Chung Jung Won’s HongCho Cheers For Students Taking University Entrance Exams

by Kim Jong-hoon (김종훈), Asia Today, November 4 2012

대상은 자사의 브랜드인 ‘청정원’ 홍초가 수능시험을 앞둔 고3 수험생을 응원하기 위해 오는 7일까지 서울시내 20여개 학교를 찾아 다니며 홍초 2만여개를 무료로 나눠줄 계획이라고 4일 밝혔다.

On Sunday, Daesang’s brand Chung Jung Won [English website here] announced that to support 3rd year high school students about to take their university entrance exams, they would visit 20 high schools in Seoul before the 8th (the day of the exams) and donate 20,000 bottles of HongCho to students (source, right).

청정원측은 오랜 시험준비로 지친 수험생들이 좋은 컨디션으로 시험을 볼 수 있도록 응원하기 위한 마음으로 기획 된 행사라고 설명했다. 수능이 끝난 이후에도 홍초를 내세운 다양한 마케팅 활동으로 그간 고생이 많았던 수험생들을 지원할 계획이다.

Chung Jung Won explained that this is an event for tired students that have been preparing for the exams for such a long time, so that they can be in good condition on the exam day. Also, that even after the exams, the company plans to continue supporting those students that have suffered so much, through various HongCho marketing events.

한편, 홍초는 피로회복 등에 도움이 되는 기능성 원료인 콜라겐과 헛개나무 농축액, 그리고 식이섬유를 풍부하게 함유하고 있는 건강기능성 음용식초다.

HongCho is a healthy vinegar drink that includes collagen, liquids extracted from the Oriental Raisin Tree, and a lot of fiber, and is very helpful for recovering from tiredness. (end.)

For sure, HongCho does sound quite healthy. And, technically, do not match the definition of a diet-drink:

Diet drinks: Include calorie-free and low-calorie versions of sodas, fruit drinks, energy drinks, sports drinks, and carbonated water, consistent with definitions reported by the National Cancer Institute and U.S. Food and Drug Administration food labeling guidelines. Diet drinks do not include 100% fruit juice or unsweetened teas or coffees.

However, a quick perusal of the Chung Jung Won website demonstrates that it is explicitly being marketed as a “body-changing” drink, with—especially after photoshopping—exceptionally tall and skinny Jun Ji-hyun (전지현) endorsing it most recently (that’s Kim Hee-sun/김희선 from 2010 above). Also, the following website screenshot (from 2011) and commercial show that the body-changing theme is no mere Konglish accident:


There also appears to be a sponsorship deal with the Diet War program:


Meanwhile, girl-group Kara (카라) are promoting the drink in Japan, with much the same theme. Which is ironic, considering that these are the same women who admitted that they can’t even drink water on the (frequent) days that they’re required to wear revealing clothing:

What do you think? Have any Korea-based readers had similar promotions at their own schools? How about overseas? Are concerns and issues different there? I know that in the US for instance, it is more sodas that are considered a problem, and that if students drank HongCho instead that would probably be considered a blessing. From TIME back in March (my emphasis):

If some public-health advocates have their way, sodas could become the cigarettes of food. Doctors already dislike the sugary drinks for their teeth-dissolving properties and for the role they may play in childhood obesity. There’s a constant struggle to get soda vending machines out of public schools, with administrators often forced to choose between losing sponsorship money from big soda companies and dealing with overcaffeinated, less healthy kids. Given the sheer size of the American soda industry—9.4 billion cases of soft drinks were sold in the U.S. in 2009—it’s not a war that will end anytime soon. Especially if a certain C word starts getting thrown around.

Update: From the picture, I got the impression that is was only girls’ schools that were targeted, but technically the advertorial (I can’t bring myself to call it a news report) only mentions 20 unnamed schools, and is repeated verbatim across newspapers.

Update 2: It’s not really related to the original post, but if you read that TIME magazine article above, you may also be interested in the recent findings that one of the main reasons for US children’s obesity is that they’re eating away from home so often, and (of course) that they’re mostly eating junk food when they do.

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If you reside in South Korea, you can donate via wire transfer: Turnbull James Edward (Kookmin Bank/국민은행, 563401-01-214324)

“The less you wear, the bigger the discount”

(Sources, edited: left, right)

“Want to talk third wave feminism, you could cite Ariel Levy and the idea that women have internalized male oppression. Going to spring break at Fort Lauderdale, getting drunk, and flashing your breasts isn’t an act of personal empowerment. It’s you, so fashioned and programmed by the construct of patriarchal society that you no longer know what’s best for yourself. A damsel too dumb to even know she’s in distress.”

Chuck Palahnuik, Snuff (2008)

Via Genderly Speaking, a typically provocative quote from Palahnuik to ponder. Not least, when you’ve just translated today’s article, about a clothes company offering discounts to customers for wearing mini-skirts and hot-pants.

Cancelled for being too lewd, I think the event should have gone ahead, and not just because I wasn’t all that impressed by Levy’s Female Chauvinist Pigs (2005) either. Rather, it’s mainly because I completely reject the notion of any woman— or man—as a mere unthinking pawn of the patriarchy. Also, heavily promoted by the media, there’s already a huge demand for such revealing clothes, so this event stood out only for being more explicit than most.

While there are legitimate issues of sexual objectification that can be raised in light of that, another problem is that the writer of the article (or the parties involved—it’s unclear) implies that it was the “sexual provocation” or “sexual suggestiveness” (선정성) that was the greatest concern. Whether she was talking about the clothes or the event as a whole though, is a little vague, but if the former then I imagine that many women would take offense at the implication that they should never wear revealing clothes? (Source, right)

Had the event gone ahead as planned though, I do realize that it would have been just as empowering and tasteful as, say, a wet t-shirt competition. (Seriously, I’m wincing at the thought of lecherous cheering and the flash of cameras as customers are revealed to have over 30cm of skin showing above their knees.) Also, even if this did all happen a month before the first Slutwalk in Toronto, and 4 months before Korea’s own, it was still disappointing that the company representative only offered platitudes in defense of the event.

Is it hypocritical of me to intellectually support such an event, but — were they old enough to attend — hope that my own daughters would avoid it like the plague? Or merely honest? Or both?

Sigh. Like Peggy Orenstein explains in the first chapter of Cinderella Ate My Daughter (2011), sons sound so much easier to raise!

“벗는 만큼 세일” 의류업계 ‘막장’ / Just Typical For The Clothing Industry: “The less you wear, the bigger the discount”

코오롱인더스트리 이벤트 ‘성 상품화’ 논란…결국 행사 취소 / Kolon Industries event leads to sexual objectification controversy, is ultimately cancelled

Consumer Times, 9 March 2011, by Choi Min-hye (최미혜), choimh@consumertimes.net

코오롱인더스트리가 최근 치마길이에 따라 옷 값을 깎아주는 행사를 기획한 가운데 선정성 논란이 일자 다급히 취소하는 촌극을 벌여 소비자들의 눈살을 찌푸리게 하고 있다.

While planning an event in which customers would receive discounts depending on how high their mini-skirts were, Kolon Industries abruptly cancelled it in light of the controversy over its sexual provocation and the [anticipated] negative reaction from consumers.

참여자들의 과다 노출과 같은 부작용을 우려하는 목소리와 함께 ‘성상품화’라는 지적도 나와 행사를 예정대로 강행하기는 무리라는 업체 측의 판단이 작용했을 것이라는 분석이다.

As voices of worry were raised about the sexual objectification and such side effects as participants’ sexual objectification, the company judged that to go ahead with the event as planned would be unwise.


◆ 할인권 걸고 ‘여성 노출’ 부추겨? / Encouraging Women to Expose Their Bodies via Discount Coupons

코오롱인더스트리는 오는 13일 자사 패션 브랜드 매장인 ‘조이코오롱’에서 길이가 짧은 하의를 입은 고객들에게 제품 할인권을 증정하는 ‘하의실종 종결자를 찾아라’ 이벤트를 진행키로 했다 돌연 취소했다.

Kolon Industries abruptly cancelled an event titled “Who has the shortest?” that was to be held on the 13th at one of their stores, in which customers would have been offered discounts on clothes like hot-pants or mini-skirts if they arrived already wearing really short ones.

연예계를 중심으로 유행처럼 번지고 있는, 하의 길이가 매우 짧은 이른바 ‘하의 실종’ 패션을 제품 할인이벤트에 접목시켰다 여론의 뭇매를 맞은 탓이다.

While the entertainment world has spread this so-called “Disappearing Lower Body” trend of wearing very short clothes, Kolon Industries was roundly criticized by the public for grafting a sales event onto it.

당초 이 업체는 행사에 참여한 고객의 무릎부터 하의까지의 길이를 재 5cm까지는 50%, 10cm까지는 60%, 20cm는 70%, 30cm가 넘으면 90% 할인 쿠폰을 제공하겠다는 계획이었다. 다리 노출을 많이 할수록 옷 값을 더욱 깎아준다는 얘기다.

The intention of the company was to offer customers a 50% discount on clothes if they arrived exposing 5cm of their legs (from their knees), 60% for 10cm, 70% for 20cm, and 90% for 30cm. Or in other words, the more they exposed their legs, the greater the discount.

행사에 참여키로 예정돼 있던 이 회사 의류 브랜드는 ‘헤드’, ‘쿠아’, ‘쿠론’ 등이다. 헤드는 스포츠브랜드지만 쿠아와 쿠론은 각각 여성복, 핸드백 등 액세서리 전문 브랜드다. 행사의 주요 타깃이 여성이라는 분석이 가능하다.

Clothing brands that planned to participate in the event were Head, QuaCouronne, and so on. While Head is a sports brand, Qua and Couronne sell women’s clothes and handbags and accessories respectively. Women were clearly the target of the event.

일각에서는 국내 대표 의류업체가 할인권을 내세워 여성의 노출을 부추긴다는 곱지 않은 시선이 쏟아져 나왔다.


Some people are critical of the famous national company for planning an event that will encourage women to expose themselves.

코오롱인더스트리는 선정성 논란은 ‘기우’에 불과하다며 패션 트랜드를 반영한 행사라는 사실을 강조했다.

[But] Kolon Industries emphasized that to describe this event as sexual provocation is misguided, as it merely reflects current fashion trends.

이 회사 관계자는 “다른 업체에서 (하의실종 종결자 이벤트를) 하면 문제가 될 수 있겠지만 우리는 패션회사”라며 “패션업계에서 핫 이슈인 ‘하의 실종’ 패션을 깜짝 할인행사에 접목시킨 것”이라고 해명했다. 선정성 논란 등 행사의 부정적 효과는 이미 기획단계에서 내부적으로 논의됐다는 부연이다.

A company representative explained “If other [non-clothing] companies had hosted an event like this, it would have been a problem, but we are a fashion company.” Also, that “possible reactions like controversy about sexual provocation were anticipated and already taken into account before deciding to host the event.”

(Sources: left, right)

◆ “패션업계 ‘핫 이슈’ 행사에 접목 시킨 것”…결국 이벤트 취소 / In the end the event was cancelled

이어 이 관계자는 “평소 소비자들이 입고 다니는 반바지나 치마를 입어도 할인권을 받을 수 있다”며 “하의를 최대한 짧게 입고 오라는 취지는 아니다”라고 강조했다.

The representative added “Customers that wore normal-length shorts and skirts would also have been able to receive discounts, so the intention was not to encourage them to wear as short clothes as possible.”

“과열 경쟁 등으로 지나치게 노출이 심한 옷을 입은 참가자가 등장하면 문제가 되지 않겠냐”는 기자의 질문에는 “상황에 따라 대처하겠다”고 두루뭉술하게 답했다. 사진촬영도 막지 않겠다는 입장이어서 현장 단속이 사실상 전무한 것 아니냐는 추측이 나온다.

When asked by a reporter if people wearing too revealing clothing [in order to get a bigger discount] would be a problem, the representative replied “We don’t anticipate that, but will deal with any problems if and when they occur.” [However] it will be too difficult to police the event and prevent people from taking pictures.

이 관계자는 “기본적으로 신분증을 지참한 성인남녀만 참가할 수 있도록 했지만 행사 자체는 모두에게 공개된다”며 “(지나친 노출 등) 누가 봐도 문제가 될 상황이 발생하면 현장에서 해결할 것”이라고 말했다.

The representative also said that “the event will be open to the public, but only adults (we will check IDs) will be allowed to participate,” and again that “we will deal with any problems of excessive exposure if and when they occur.” (source, right)

업체 측의 해명에도 불구하고 ‘선정성 논란’은 수그러들지 않았다. 결국 이 업체는 문제의 행사를 열지 않기로 입장을 선회했다. 소비자들의 반응은 냉담했다.

Despite these explanations, the controversy about the sexual provocation didn’t die down. In the end, the company decided not to hold the event in question. But consumers’ feelings about it are still cool.

한 소비자는 “결국은 짧은 치마를 입고 와야 옷을 싸게 살 수 있다는 것 아니냐”며 “성 상품화에 대한 논란도 많은데 코오롱인더스트리가 꼭 이런 행사를 기획했어야 했는지 모르겠다”고 지적했다.

One consumer complained that “Why would we have to come to the store in high mini-skirts in order to receive the discount,” and wondered “why did Kolon Industries plan such event when sexual objectification is such a controversial issue?”

또 다른 소비자는 “의류업체에서 유행 아이템을 반영한 행사는 개최할 수 있다”면서도 “다만 행사 내용이 지나치게 선정적으로 비춰지면 소비자들이 거부감을 느끼지 않겠냐”고 말했다.

Another consumer said “A company can certainly hold an event that reflects current fashion trends,” but “if it is too sexually provocative, won’t people reject that?”

한편 코오롱그룹 모기업인 코오롱인더스트리는 ‘캠브리지멤버스’, ‘헤드’ 등의 브랜드로 유명한 패션 전문기업이다.

The Kolon Group, the parent company of Kolon Industries, is well known for fashion brands like Cambridge Members and Head (end).

Update — Via this blog, a video promoting the event:

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Quick Hit: CNN on Saseng Fans


A good introduction to saseng (사생) fans by Collette Bennett at CNN, and I’m not just saying that because I get a mention towards the end(!). But if anyone’s confused by the connections I make to the Korean advertising industry and celebrity endorsements though, please see here for links to many posts and articles I’ve written about the subject.

Also, for related reading, see here for a discussion of the article at a JYJ fansite (they’re mentioned in the article), Asian Junkie for “Korean Executive Says K-Pop Fans Are A Cult + The Fandom Scares An American Journalist,” and XX Factor for “Your Pop-Culture Obsession Is Not a Sickness.”

p.s. Apologies to Colette if it’s my fault (I made the same mistake in my email), but it’s sa (“a” as in “hat”) seng (“e” as in “pet”), not “saesang” (pronounced “say-seng”) as reported in the article. Or is that some Seoul variation that I’m unaware of?

Open Thread: Flashback by After School

Just a quick note to let you know that in addition to my regular feature articles at Busan Haps, I now have a K-pop music column too. See page 41 of the latest issue here (scroll down to “current issue”) for my first review of After School’s Flashback, before it’s replaced next week with my second of Secret’s Poison in the October edition.

At just 200 words though (thank God for mini-albums!), unfortunately it’s difficult to say much more than the bare minimum.  So, please feel free to add any rants or raves here, and, to get the ball rolling, I think that Eyeliner is much better than the title track, and singer Nana vastly underrated by most other reviewers. But, since first writing, I’m beginning to see what people mean about Rania and Jungah complimenting each other in Timeless too, although the song itself still leaves me feeling rather empty.

Here’s all the songs in the mini-album (and the Japanese version of Rip Off), in the order I mention them in the review:


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The Economist on K-Pop’s Role in Celebrity Endorsements


Well, I covered it in passing in an opinion piece in The Korea Herald over a year ago, and many times on the blog (and on Busan Haps) since, but hey: I admit that The Economist is probably a more authoritative-sounding source. See here then, for a discussion of how the dynamics of the Korean digital music industry are forcing labels to financially rely on celebrity endorsements, and which is a big factor behind why 2 out of 3 Korean advertisements feature them, one of the highest rates in the world.

While frustratingly brief, it does have some money quotes:

…SM Entertainment’s boss complains that even 1m downloads cannot cover the cost of making a music video….

….SM Entertainment and other purveyors of K-pop cover this shortfall at home by having their stars hawk the latest phone, or appear on television variety shows. The biggest labels have become adept at squeezing cash out of their pop stars’ names, rather than their music. But only a handful of musicians are famous enough to benefit.

South Korea’s old business model, perfected by its carmakers, was to use a captive home market as a launch-pad from which to invade foreign shores. The country’s pop musicians have turned this model upside down: they have to export their tunes to make up for meagre pickings at home.


See bloop69’s comment also, who contends that things are not as dire as they seem (for a similar discussion between abcfsk and myself, see here):

A huge chunk of the money is made in “collectable” CDs and DVDs, which can run north of $150 per shot and are constantly churned out. It’s not a case of INVADING other shores you clueless dolt. It’s a case of using Youtube and videos as LOSS LEADERS to capture a small number (tens to hundreds of thousands) of hardcore fans who spend $100s US EACH to support their “fandom”

You don’t even begin to perceive it but in fact the Koreans are using a very progressive model… similar to League of Legends or FarmVille to give customers a free “taste” of the music. Like Kpop free to play MMOs also rely heavily on “whales” and heavily invested customers to carry the rest of the customer base. It has nothing to do with “invading” other shores. This is the strategy they have been using in Korea and are using around the world.

Finally, a quick request: please ask your Korean partners, friends, colleagues and so on if they know what “celebrity endorsement” is in Korean. If they struggle to answer, as my wife did, then I think that will be testament to just how pervasive they are here! (Eventually, she came up with “유명인 보증”).

Essential Reading: “Multiple Exposures: Korean Bodies and the Transnational Imagination”

(Sources — left: unknown; right)

See The Asia-Pacific Journal for the article. Covering many of the themes discussed on the blog, and much more besides, expect to see me linking to it for many years to come!