Creative Korean Advertising #19: Underappreciated Konglish

Lotte DC Card Commercial( Source )

For all my critical analysis of Korean commercials over the years, first impressions still really last on me.

Take the following commercial for Lotte DC Plus Card (롯데 DC플러스 카드) for instance, which I frequently noticed on Yahoo Korea! last week while I was preparing this post on a rather strategically-placed soju bottle in another commercial featured there. For a long time, I thought actor Kim Ah-joong (김아중) and the male voiceover were merely saying “DC” repeatedly, albeit pronouncing it “dee-she” because that’s how it would sound if written in the Korean alphabet (which lacks a “C” or “see” sound):

But provided it’s done by attractive members of the opposite sex, then, well, I often find English mispronounced by non-native speakers to be rather cute, and I’d wager you do too. And indeed, the focus on the voices in this commercial was the deliberate intent of the advertiser, as not only is there the following amusing version in which Kim Ah-joong’s voice is placed into the mouths of others…

…but the entire thing has even been made into an extended song, downloadable from the Lotte DC Plus Card website (see here for the lyrics):

And I was considering post the commercial(s) here simply on those merits alone. But I’ve occasionally misinterpreted commercials in the past because of not double-checking them later, so I made sure to do so with these ones. And I’m very glad I did, as – as some of you will already have noticed – reading the commercials as mere mispronunciation of an English acronym is completely mistaken.

Lotte DC Card Commercial Screenshot( Source: Paranzui )

Take the second commercial again: if you listen very closely, while the male voiceover is saying “DC” repeatedly, it turns out that Kim Ah-joong is actually only saying that about half the time. For instance, when the scene above comes up at 0:07, she says “bing-she-doh dee-she” (빙씨도 디씨), and, lo and behold, “bing” (빙) is the family name of the people depicted (written on the pots), “she” (씨), written in the Chinese character “氏” is much like the titles “Mr” and “Mrs” etc., albeit with the important proviso that you would never use them to refer to a superior (people’s positions, like “Teacher Kim”, “Superintendent Park” and so on are used instead), “doh” (도) means “also”, and “dee-she” means, well, “DC.” So, Kim Ah-joong is not mindlessly repeating “DC” in a Korean accent, albeit rather cutely, but instead saying “The Bings also [like/use] the DC card,” and before them, the middle-aged woman “Choon (춘) also [likes/uses] the DC card,” and so on.

This would have been more obvious to me had I seen the earlier commercials in the series:

Ultimately then, this is actually quite a clever and amusing use of the different meanings and pronunciations of  the “C” sound in both languages. And, forgive me if I’m projecting here, but I think it just goes to show how there is often a great deal more to Korean advertising than what may at first appear. Moreover, just like a little knowledge of Korean suffices to completely transform one’s opinion of these commercials, not much more is required to see Korean society in a new light also: recall how full of sexual innuendo this and this example were for instance, but in a society still usually labeled as “sexually conservative” by the English-language media.

(For all posts in the Creative Korean Advertising series, see here)


Posted in Creative Korean Advertising, Learning Korean Tagged: 롯데, 롯데 DC플러스 카드, Konglish, Lotte, Lotte DC Plus Card