With apologies to the guinea pigs that were the first to receive it, but I’m constantly updating my public lecture on gender and Korean advertising as I get more practice with it—and indeed I’ve just realized I’ve been making a big oversight by not mentioning Koreans’ exceptionally tolerant attitudes towards photoshopping in it previously. Deciding to remedy that in the latest version then, naturally I decided to include one of the most notorious recent examples: singer G.Na‘s ubiquitous advertisements for “Juvis Professional Diet“, which I discussed here. Surely, I thought, there was no greater demonstration than making such an attractive woman look like a virtual alien (or at least her legs).
Then I opened today’s paper…
If you reside in South Korea, you can donate via wire transfer: Turnbull James Edward (Kookmin Bank/국민은행, 563401-01-214324)
Call me paranoid, but usually I quickly turn the page when I see newspaper ads like this on my commute. After all, as the only foreigner, I’ll already be the only guy on the subway carriage red-faced and sweating at this time of year. And I don’t want to fulfill stereotypes of oversexed Western males by blatantly staring at singer G.Na‘s legs either.
But, dammit, there’s something wrong with them here. Rather than hearing me harp on about unnecessary photoshopping though, it was with great relief that I found some rare critical Korean commentary on this ad. Or at least, so I thought before I began translating properly…
지나 신이내린 몸매, 포토샵을 거부한 아찔한 비주얼 G.Na’s God-given Body Doesn’t Need Photoshop
활발한 활동을 하고 있는 가수 지나가 하루가 다르게 예뻐지는 모습을 보이고 있습니다. 원조 베이글녀 이제니도 안 부러울 정도의 글래머스한 몸매를 가진 지나는 신세경에 이어 가장 매력적인 여성에 속하기도 한데요. 여기에 타고난 가창력은 더욱더 지나를 빛나게 하는 부분이 아닐까 합니다.
G.Na, a very active singer, is becoming prettier every day. Counted as one of the most attractive women [in Korea?] after Shin Se-kyung, with her glamorous body she has no need to be jealous of original Bagel Girl Jenny Lee. Add the singing ability she was born with too, and she shines all the more.
[James – for what a “Bagel Girl” is, see here. Also, bear in mind that “glamorous” actually means “voluptuous” in Korean. And say “Jeena”, not “Jee-en-ay” like I first did!]
현재는 인기를 끌었던 Black & White 활동을 마치고 자신의 가창력을 그대로 보여줄 수 있는 후속곡 ‘벌써 보고 싶어’로 활동 중인데요. 역시 댄스곡이나 발라드 곡 모두를 다 완벽히 소화해 내는 지나의 모습을 보면 정말 뛰어난 솔로 가스로서 능력을 타고난 가수가 아닐까 생각합니다. 그리고 이런 인기 덕분인지 지나는 프로농구 챔피언결정전 5차전에까지 초청받아 시구하는 등 나날이 달라지는 위상을 실감하고 있습니다.
Having just finished the song Black and White [above], which is gathering a lot of popularity, G.Na is continuing to demonstrate her singing ability with her next song, I Already Miss You. Able to adopt [new] styles like dance and ballad music perfectly, if you see [hear?] her you will have no doubt that she was destined to become a brilliant solo singer. Indeed, because of her popularity she was even invited to make the ceremonial opening pitch at a pro-baseball championship game [below], and her image is soaring.
그런데 이런 지나가 최근에 가장 완벽한 몸매를 드러낸 모습이 있어 화제가 되었죠. 그것도 무보정 몸매로 있는 그대로의 환상적인 모습을 보여줘 감탄사를 연발하게 만들었습니다. 이 사진은 일명 직찍 사진으로 광고촬영 중에 지나의 모습을 그대로 담아 낸 사진인데요. 지나의 완벽한 몸매에 정말 감탄사가 절로 나올 정도로 아찔함을 주는 모습이라고 할 수 있습니다.
By the way, showing her most perfect body has become a bit of an issue, right? So perfect that it needs no corrections, seeing her fantasy-like body makes people exclaim in rapid succession. And indeed in this everyday, unaltered picture of her doing her advertisement photoshoot, we just see her appearance how it is. But her body is so perfect and mesmerizing that she makes people automatically exclaim.
하지만, 이런 지나의 무보정 사진과 과연 정식으로 광고에 사용된 사진이 얼마나 다를까 궁금해지는데요. 최근에 지나의 모습이 공개되었는데 역시나 별반 다를 것 없는 모습에 또 한 번 놀라게 되고 말았습니다. 정말 포토샵을 거부한 몸매라고 받게 할 수 없는데요. 워낙 타고난 몸매 종결자이다 보니 실제로 쓰인 광고 사진과 별반 다를 게 없더군요.
But I was curious as to how much the photos used in the advertisement differed from the untouched ones. And again I was surprised at how they’re not particularly different…surely this can be called a body that rejects photoshop? As she was born with this “terminator” body, the final picture actually used in the advertisement doesn’t really have any differences.
[James – “Terminator”, as in a person, is some new Korean slang. I think by itself it means someone is so good that he or she is the final, “terminating” word on the issue. Update: with thanks to Milton at The Marmot’s Hole, a much better explanation is that “In slang, a 종결자 is some who is the absolute best at something. You can affix it to other words besides 몸매, like 색시종결자 In this case, it means that G.Na has the absolute best body.”]
일단 왼쪽 사진은 포토샵을 하지 않은 지나의 몸매 그대로 모습이고 오른쪽이 최종 사진 보정을 해서 공개된 사진 컷입니다. 보여지는 표정의 각도가 조금은 다른 스타일이지만 무보정 상태의 지나와 보정 상태의 지나가 별반 다를 게 없는 것을 확연히 느낄 수 있는데요. 왜 지나의 몸매가 찬사를 받는지 알 수 있는 부분이 아닐까 합니다.
On the right is a untouched picture of G.Na, on the left is the final one that was released, with photoshop corrections. The angle and her expression are a little different, but otherwise I get a definite feeling that there was little photoshopping done. Now we see why G.Na receives such praise for her body.
그러나 지나는 광고 촬영 외에는 주로 이런 스타일의 옷은 잘 입고 다니질 않죠. 몸매가 뛰어나지만, 사람들이 색안경을 끼고 몸으로만 승부한다는 비난을 하기 때문에 많은 상처를 받았기 때문인데요. 최근에 오락프로나 다른 방송에 나오는 지나의 모습을 보면 상체를 거의 노출한 적이 없을 정도입니다. 그래서 말이지만 지나가 글래머스한 몸매를 가지고 있다고 해서 왜 비난을 하는 일은 그만두었으면 하는데요. 이번 가창력도 어느 정도 인정받은 가수이기 때문에 이제는 실력으로 승부하는 지나의 모습으로 바라봐 주었으면 좋겠다는 생각입니다.
By the way, with the exception of this advertisement photoshoot, G.Na doesn’t really wear these kinds of clothes. Her body is amazing, but she has been hurt by many people having a prejudice about it, thinking that that is all she is good for. Because of this, whenever she appears on comedy shows or other programs, she always wears clothes that cover most of her upper body. So, I wish people would stop criticizing her for having a glamorous body, and think that as her singing abilities have been acknowledged, people should respect her as a singer (end).
Writing ability aside, the author does have a point about the Korean media’sobsession with G.Na’s breasts. Indeed, it strongly reminds me of journalist Amanda Hess’s classic article With Great Cleavage Comes Great Responsibility, in which she argues that ultimately it’s not really busty women’s clothes that people have a problem with. Rather, it’s large breasts themselves that are somehow considered “indecent”.
On the other hand, I beg to differ on the relative lack of photoshopping by Juvis (see here for a close-up of the last image if you’re still not convinced yourself). It speaks volumes about Koreans’ attitudes to photoshop, I’m tempted to say, that someone would consider that to be a sign of an attractive body, rather than simply one that required no photoshopping at all. Fortunately for such (over)generalizations however, actually many Korean netizens agree with me, or at least on G.Na and this particular photoshoot.
Meanwhile, does anybody else recall this ad from Juvis that I wrote about 2 years ago?
To those that still maintain I’m reading too much into things, I now rest my case!
Update: As a commenter on blogger Michael Hurt’s Facebook pointed out, the ad above is actually about:
…a special treatment program to fix bowed legs. The girl who endorses [it] was famous for her bowed legs as much as her pretty face, but seems ok now due to the treament. Many Korean girls are interested in this kind of program thank to the ‘girl group’ phenomenon since few years ago.
Technically speaking then, the ad isn’t advocating excessively skinny legs. On the other hand though, it’s hardly discouraging them either, and Juvis has a strong track record of doing so in other ads too. (Like the one with G.Na.)
Some words of wisdom from Londoner Bruce Haines, currently head of Korea’s largest ad agency Cheil Worldwide (my emphasis):
Q) What’s one big difference between advertising in Korea and the UK?
A) Celebrity endorsement – a huge proportion of Korean ads depend on famous people. Of course, it’s not uncommon in the West for stars to endorse a product, but generally the ad has a core idea and makes use of the celebrity endorsement to enhance the original concept. Not so in Korea. In its crudest form, Korean advertising degenerates to beautiful people holding a bottle. This is one of the things holding back the reputation of Korean advertising worldwide. (10 Magazine)
At first, I thought “Korean advertising degenerates to celebrities holding a bottle” would have been more accurate myself. And regardless of the rather unflattering picture of Wondergirls singer Sohee (안소희) I chose above!^^
But Haines’s wording does have a nice ring to it. And however obvious his point may be to readers, I confess that it would never have occurred to me personally. Spending most of my adult life in Korea, he made me realize that I fail to notice Korean advertising’s peculiarities sometimes.
Which got me thinking about others. An obvious one, at least to a blogger forcing himself to include more images of men in his posts(!), was that although male celebrities are increasingly used to advertise alcohol in Korea, I really struggled to find any men endorsing a soft drink to illustrate this post with.
Yes: even after half an hour spent flicking through my old Korean advertising magazines, this was still the only one I could think of (although as I write this, this recent one for Powerade is coming to mind; but the actors are not celebrities and thanks to Seri for pointing out that it features the group Epik High). If anyone can think of any more, then please let me know.* But if not, then overwhelmingly having women in Korean soft drink commercials aimed at women seems to provides additional evidence for their preference for passive approaches to losing weight, in the sense that “drink this and get a body like mine” – rather than, say, “drink this as part of a balanced, healthy lifestyle” – is the only narrative offered.
Of course, soft drink commercials would say that. But the point is that this narrative of passivity is echoed in Korean advertising for a surprising array of products aimed at women.
In particular, as reader Seamus Walsh recently commented, it’s strange (and a pity) just how many Korean female singers get great bodies by dancing, only then to appear in advertisements claiming that it was all the result of drinking, say, a watery tea. A good illustration of which is the Brown Eyed Girls (브라운아이드걸스; above), who – to my great dismay – recently choose to endorse the diet company Juvis (쥬비스), a company I’d already criticized back in February.
And for alternatives? Again I’d struggle, as female celebrities advocating something involving mere exercise instead are unfortunately very rare, either personally or via endorsing related products like exercise equipment or sports clothing. BoA (보아) is one, but can anyone think of any others?
Lest you feel that I’m overemphasizing and/or exaggerating Korean differences regardless though, none of that is to deny that marketing to Korean women does indeed still share many similarities with that of Western countries for instance. And apologies for rehashing a topic already familiar to many readers, albeit from a new and – to me – rather unexpected angle.
But the differences are real, and as a final surprising demonstration of this, consider how gendered yogurt is in Western countries for instance, as demonstrated hilariously by American comedian Sarah Haskins below (see here for many more videos like it). As far as I can tell though, so far yogurt has yet to become “the official food of women” in Korea:
Is that difference because the idea of, well, “drinking” for health is so ingrained in the Korean psyche? Or perhaps for some other reason?
If you reside in South Korea, you can donate via wire transfer: Turnbull James Edward (Kookmin Bank/국민은행, 563401-01-214324)
p.s. For examples of what Korean advertising does have to offer the world, see my “Creative Korean Advertising” series here.
*As soon as my head hit the pillow, a few more examples came to mind, and I realized I needed to make a greater distinction between different kinds of soft drinks: advertisements for tea-drinks at least do indeed almost exclusively feature women, but those for sodas are more mixed, and – with the exception of laxatives – the more medicine-like a health-drink is marketed as, and to be found in a pharmacy, the more likely it is to feature and be intended for men. But I think the distinction I identify in the text is still generally true, and as further evidence for that I suggest thinking of what celebrities you know of that have regularly endorsed any form of soft-drink. I’d wager that while several women will come to mind, you’d still be hard-pressed to think of any men!
After all, why settle for mere sausage legs when you can have drumsticks instead?
Found in passing while flicking through a discarded copy of the Korean version of the Metro International, a free daily newspaper. While it’s obvious what it’s advertising, I was sufficiently curious to find out what it was saying exactly:
나는 원래 윤아보다 다리가 섹시했다
다만 쥬비스 관리를 몰랐을 뿐!
Originally my legs were sexier than Yoona’s, but the only problem was I didn’t know about the care that Juvis (the name of the diet clinic) could provide.
내 다리는 원레 백만불짜리 다리,
세월의 무게를 견디기위해
점점 두꺼워져 갔지
이제 쥬비스로 관리받아
예전의 각선미를 되찾을거야!
Originally my legs looked like a million dollars, but in order to get through life my legs got thicker and thicker. Now, through Juvis I am going to receive a service that will restore my legs to their former beauty!
더 즐거워진 쥬비스 체험 EVENT
A more enjoyable Juvis experience event
3월부터 쥬비스의 다양한, 관리시스템이 새롭게 시작됩니다! 이벤트 기간 동안 신규 패키지를 동록하시는 고객께 새로운 관리시스템 중 2개의 이벤트 프로그램을 무료로 체험할 수 있는 혜택을 드립니다.
From March, Juvis will introduce a more varied body care system. For those that register, you will receive the benefits of experiencing two event programs for no extra charge.
여자가 꿈꾸던 라인
쥬비스에서 관리하세요 몸이 즐겨운 다이어트
The line that women have dreamt about
Get the care and a diet enjoyable for your body at Juvis
쥬비스 다이어트가 즐거운 이유:
몸이 힘들지 않아서 즐겁다
요요를 완벽히 잡아서 즐겁다
부작용이 없어서 즐겁다
탄력까지 살려줘서 즐겁다
원하는 부위가 빠져서 즐겁다
추가 부담이 없어서 즐겁다
Reasons why a Juvis diet is enjoyable:
It is not tiring for the body
Your weight will not go up and down like a yoyo
There are no side-effects
You will revive your body’s elasticity and bounce
You can lose weight from the body parts you want to