Korean Sociological Image #56: Start ‘Em Young! (Updated)


Apologies for the continued slow posting folks, but I have several good excuses, one of which involves spending a lot of time in doctors’ waiting rooms. Unlike most normal people however, that’s actually something I look forward to(!), as it gives me the opportunity to peruse the hundreds of advertisements in the notoriously thick women’s magazines there.

Like Laedygyeonghyang (레이디경향; Lady Trend) for instance, which at 8200 won (US$7.32) a pop, is normally much too expensive to buy just for the sake of a few pictures. But then I saw the February edition, and was hobbling to the nearest bookstore literally as soon as my bandages were changed (the nurses had to call me back inside for my injection).


You see, February to March being the start of the school year in Korea, then the first 30 pages or so had 6 full page advertisements for children’s schoolbags. And all of those aimed at girls stressed how attractive or pretty they would make them look, whereas all of those aimed at boys stressed how they could help them achieve their dreams, their appropriateness for rough and tumble play, and so on. Perpetuating gender stereotypes in a manner much more reminiscent of the 1960s and ’70s than something you’d expect to see in 2011, this was really quite shocking, and an indictment of how – in terms of socializing children at least – advertising has definitely regressed in recent years.

Unfortunately, the magazine was no longer available, but as you can see above I did manage to find at least the 2 K-SWISS (케이스위스) ones online later (the other 4 were from HEAD {헤드}). Paraphrasing just a little, the Korean on the girl’s ad reads “What style shall I choose today?!”, while that on the boy’s reads “Through [this bag’s] strength/firmness and lightness, achieve children’s dreams!”. Sigh.


Update 1 – Of course, those messages were pretty obvious from just the visuals. And given that, the fact that Caucasian models were used, and that K-SWISS is an American company, then I was curious as to if this was in fact an American ad that had been used in other markets, with just the text translated. A quick check of its main website though, shows that only the Asian branches had kids’ lines, but which still leaves the possibility that they’re generic ads for the East Asian region.

Have any readers based there seen their own local versions? Or – wherever you are – any other children’s ads like these?

Update 2 – With my thanks to the staff of Dr. Lee’s Orthopaedic Clinic, I was allowed to take the magazine home to scan. While my memory had been a little faulty – the advertisements for school bags were in the first 100 pages, not 30; there were also advertorials for them later; and there were 3 advertisements from other companies that were fine –  I’d made no mistake about the HEAD ones:

The title on the left reads “Adventurous Children”, and that on the right “Romantic Children”. In the next ones they (literally) say “Imagining Children” and “Dreaming Children”, which technically speaking is fine I suppose, but then just look at what each child is imagining…

(For more posts in the Korean Sociological Images series, see here. Or, for more on the Korean women’s magazine industry specifically, please see here)