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)