“Gender Advertisements” in the Korean Context: A Request

( Source )

If you’d told me a week ago that I’d be spending much of my birthday looking for images of Korean men touching themselves, I’d probably have politely told you never to comment on my blog again.

Prompted by this analysis of Korean magazine advertisements that found that Korean men were significantly more likely to be shown doing so than Western men in them however, that’s precisely what I’ve been doing. But for all their supposed ubiquity, it’s proving surprisingly difficult to find examples, throwing off my schedule for the next posts in this series.

To be specific, I’m after advertisements like these, but featuring Korean men rather than women, and would really appreciate any help. Seriously, what search terms would you suggest, in English or Korean?^^

Of course I do have some examples, and will continue looking: my planned post will simply take longer than expected. In the meantime then, let me briefly offer some amusing and/or interesting advertisements that have cropped up recently instead, starting with that for Coca Cola Korea (한국 코카콜라) above featuring Thai-American Nichkhun (닉쿤) of the Korean band 2PM. I think its humor speaks for itself, but in the unlikely event that you feel I’m reading too much into it, please see those featuring other…er…members of the band here, of which Junho (준호) in particular seems to be enjoying holding his miniCoke bottle entirely too much!

Next is this one for Venus lingerie (비너스) featuring Han Ye-seul (한예슬), featured on the front page of Korea’s main portal site Naver (네이버) as I type this. Why it’s interesting is because of the English name “Glam Up” for the bra featured, which, making little sense otherwise, supports the argument that the English word “glamor” has somehow come to mean “voluptuous” or “curvaceous” in Korean:

( Source )

In turn, it demonstrates the ridiculousness of the new Korean phrase cheongsoon-gullaemor (청순글래머; or “innocent glamor”), but which is nevertheless very much in vogue in the Korean media at the moment. But that is no great surprise in view of the enduring popularity of older ones for women’s bodies like “S-line” (S라인) perhaps, and so, lest I begin to sound too serious here, let me move on to this advertisement for Nike Korea (나이키) featuring ice skater Kim Yu-na (김연아):

( Source: korean lovers photoblog )

One of the most endearing athletes I’ve ever seen (well before she won her gold medal), it’s difficult not to simply adore Yuna, but I confess I still had to to laugh at what Matt at Gusts of Popular Feeling wrote about this ad last month:

By the way, does anyone find Kim’s expression in this ad to be, uh, ecstatic?

Perhaps there’s a reason the left hand side was cut off where it was. Just do it, indeed.

Okay, perhaps that was reading too much into it, and I’m sure you can understand my reluctance in not posting it earlier, the image of her at #10 here alone receiving thousands of hits in the last week of February, presumably most of them from fans…

Either way, I hope you at least one of those advertisements made you smile and/or think. And again, if anyone can help find examples of the sorts of advertisements I’m looking for, I would very much appreciate it; even if it’s only because you feel guilty for forgetting my birthday!^^


Lusting After Teenagers…or the Maturing of Women’s Fan Culture?

Update, September 2013: My original commentary on this article became outdated, so I’ve since removed it. Instead, please see here, here, here, and here for more on the controversial “uncle” or “ajosshi” fandom of teen girl-group members, and here for more on why middle-aged women came to dominate soccer fandom back in 2002 — an important precursor to their fandom of pop stars and actors described here.

Middle-aged People are Head Over Heels about Young Idols

Fan Culture is Changing

#1. Mr. Kim (46), a department manager of a medium-sized business, knows the names and personalities of all 9 members of Girls’ Generation. He thinks that the Wondergirls and 2NE1 do not even come close in terms of purity and class. He dismisses accusations of having a Lolita complex, and says that watching the girls of Girls’ Generation, who are about the same age as his daughter, give him a feeling of life and vitality.

#2. Film company CEO Mrs. Kim (39), suffered severe depression after her movie did extremely badly 2 years ago. But she was able to recover because of her interest in male idol groups, and when she analyzes the charms of members of 2PM, or discusses the potential for the new group MBLAQ, she is indistinguishable from an expert in the music industry. Her dream is to make a movie like Attack on the Pin-up Boys (2007) that Super Junior starred in.

Middle-aged People Are Actively Participating in Fan Clubs

As the name implies, “older brother” fan club members used to be mainly teenagers, but this is no longer the case. But as active consumers of culture, middle-aged women passionate about flower men‘ and middle-aged men heavily into girl groups are actively changing fan culture.

For instance, on flower man Lee Min-ho’s fan club “Dave,” there is an “older sister” section for 30-50 year old women to exchange information about their star, and when there are fan meetings with him they make up over 80% of the audience. And whenever SS501 [James: if you don’t want to show your age, say “double-ess” rather than “ess-ess”!)] have a concert in Korea or attend some event in their region, their middle-aged female fans prepare packed lunches with healthy foods such as red ginseng for them.


And whenever there is an event featuring Rain, his middle-aged female fans call the media and request favorable coverage. Before the release of his first Hollywood movie Ninja Assassin (2009), they even delivered rice-cakes to them, a symbol of good luck for a new venture.

Indeed, it has become quite normal for there to be fan clubs that only allow those older than the flower men themselves to join. And this is true for male-only fan clubs for female idols too. In the Girls’ Generation’s “Girls’ Generation’s Party” and the Wondergirls’ “Wonderful” fan clubs for instance, middle-aged men have regular virtual meetings where they exchange opinions about how the groups can progress and thoroughly how they can celebrate group anniversaries and birthdays and so on.

A New Fan Culture is Actively Forming

Many people have dim views of middle-aged men and women who don’t act their age, dismissing them as merely chasing after their lost youth. But an alternate view is that this demographic shift in membership is an inevitable change.

Professor Tak Hyeon-min, on sabbatical in the Cultural Contents Department of Hanyang University, said “People of the 386 Generation, who have finally established their own unique culture, are used to actively absorbing new things,” and that “from their 20s until now, they have demonstrated that they are the biggest consumers and purchasers of cultural products.”

Also, “members of this generation are stuck with heavy family, home, and/or social responsibilities, so as a means of escapism and renewing themselves, they have created a middle-aged fandom in a sense, fundamentally changing Korean fan-club culture in the process.” (end)

Korean Sociological Image #23: Male Objectification

Acutely aware of the role my heterosexual male gaze can play in my choice of subjects and images for this blog sometimes, ironically I spend more time looking for those involving men these days, hoping to find something of note with which to achieve a balance.

In itself, this new commercial with boy-band 2PM hardly qualifies. But not only is male objectification an increasingly common theme in Korean advertising in recent months (see here and here for two examples featuring Lee Byung-hun {이병헌} and JYP {박진영} respectively), this would easily be one of the most audacious examples I’m aware of.

And coming so soon after this one for Cob Chicken (Cob 구어조은닭) too, then perhaps, like kissing, male objectification will be yet another advertising taboo discarded in 2009?

Granted, this may sound like exaggeration to readers based outside of Korea: all of the above examples are rather tame compared to their Western counterparts (NSFW) for instance, and the frequency of male objectification in the Korean media is easily paled by that of women, whom are also subject to excessive objectification and commodification in daily life here.

Nichkhun's Abs Real Brownie CommercialBut that media imbalance is hardly confined to Korea, and the speed of change is particularly remarkable. After all, however unbelievable it may sound today, recall that social norms prohibited Korean women from publicly admiring men’s bodies until as recently as 2002!

Meanwhile, apologies for not providing a translation for the commercial, but given the product’s name then I think you’ll quickly get the idea!^^ And I would very much appreciate it if readers could tell me of any more examples like it that I may have missed.

(For all posts in the Korean Sociological Images series, see here)