Korean Sociological Image #26: The Japanization of the Female Body?
The message that drinking a product will attract the opposite sex is hardly new in Korean advertising, but rarely is it so blatant (or lame) as in this above example with Cha Tae-hyun (차태현) and Jessica Gomes for Georgia.
I say “Japanization” because this sort of thing is normal there, and it’s often come to mind as it increasingly becomes standard for Korean women – or rather, their body parts – to grace advertisements for all manner of products, including banking, swimming pools, and ski resorts. Indeed, even in soju advertising campaigns ostensibly aimed at women, sometimes it’s difficult to get past all the breasts.
On top of that, this process is also occurring in an environment where doumi (도우미) or female “assistants” and scantily-clad “narrator models” (나레이터 머델) are already widely used to sell mundane household items or open even the humblest of new stores and restaurants respectively. And again, it is Japan that is most notorious for this, and probably where the Korean practice originated.
Heck, Georgia is even a well-known Japanese brand too, albeit a subsidiary of The Coca-Cola Company.
But please don’t take my labeling too seriously: this is only one example, and bikinis in soft drinks advertisements are hardly unique to Japan. Moreover, the Korean media tends to apply more liberal standards of dress and behavior to foreign women than it does Koreans, and Jessica Gomes is extremely popular in Korea too, arguably rendering this quite an exceptional case. Certainly it’s quite a departure from Georgia’s previous Korean advertisements at least.
Still, even with those double standards, my wife thinks that it’s not so risqué that it couldn’t have been done with a Korean model. I disagree, just, but given all the examples I’ve cited above, then if not Georgia it was surely just a matter of time before a Korean company came up with something like it.
Or perhaps one already has? If readers can think of any more like it, please let me know.
Update: Two things that I forget to mention. First, one additional theme that the advertisement illustrates is that of the apparent acceptability of Korean male-foreign female relationships in the Korea media, notable because of the almost complete absence of those with Korean women and foreign men instead (here is a rare exception). Also, for those of you interested in why the female body seems to get viewed with such utility in Korea, see here for an examination of the philosophical and religious foundations to that.
(For all posts in the Korean Sociological Images series, see here)