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Korea: Where sex sells….everything.

March 29, 2011

I was having a rough time choosing what to talk about in my next blog.  Korea is full of interesting, obscure and down right hilarious things and choosing one topic was proving to be difficult.  It was when I saw this advertisement in the subway station that I realized I had found my next blog topic.

So basically to sum it up, this blog is about “Strange and Ridiculous Advertisements That Mostly Use Sex to Sell Products and That Are Also Selling Ridiculous Products That All Pertain to Korean Pop Culture as a Whole”.

Here is my first example….

Side #1 of ad

Side #2 of ad

So if you didn’t catch that, basically side #1 shows the “before” and “after” of a good plastic surgery.  The slimmer, more feminine face with rounder eyes are the desired characteristics.  Side #2 of the ad shows the “before” and “after” of the results of getting that plastic surgery (looking pretty).   Basically, being more attractive = finding a husband & getting a big ring.  What I find most hilarious about this advertisement is not the fact that the message is “get plastic surgery and your life will be better” but the fact that it is actually SAYING it.  Yea sure, this idea isn’t that strange.  In the U.S. the basic premise of any plastic surgery/weight loss commercial is about the same but the funny thing is we would never be so blunt about it. Well, Koreans are.  They just know how it is, and they say it.

If you couldn’t tell from the above advertisement, appearance is everything in Korea.  Plastic surgery is very popular, and Korea has one of the highest statistics of plastic surgery around the world.  The most common procedure Koreans get is a double eye lid surgery, and even parents sometimes pay for their teenagers (sometimes children) to have it done.   This surgery reshapes the eyelid to create an upper eyelid with a crease rather than an upper eyelid without one.  (For the most part it makes a rounder, more “Western” looking eyelid).  Other plastic surgeries are less common but still present.  There is even a street nick named “plastic surgery street”  in the ‘Beverly Hills of Seoul’.

Since appearance is so important, I try my best to look good at school.  (Being hungover makes this goal more difficult…hhaha jk..)  But I especially try to look good because if I come to school looking bad, it is probable that one of my students will actually tell me.  “Jessica Teacher you look messy” or something to that sort.  Even though this cultural importance placed on appearance is not divergent from that of Southern California, I have still noticed the differences.   A few times, especially in the beginning of my teaching this month, one of my co-teachers would always introduce me as “a very pretty English teacher” or she would say, “I bet you are excited because our pretty English teacher is here today”.  This makes me very uncomfortable and I usually responded with some type of awkward look and awkward body language.  But to my co-teacher, this introduction was very normal and appropriate.   If this introduction was made in the U.S., the students would probably be very confused and would probably giggle (or make judgements on the actual looks of the teacher).  Here is Korea, appearance can be just as an important quality as being smart or nice.   It is in every Korean’s best interest to try to obtain every one of these qualities.

Back to the strange advertisements that reflect these interesting themes…

I spend a good amount of time on the subway and on buses.  This gives me ample time to stare at advertisements.   After all this staring I have found a few common themes.

1. Ridiculously good-looking young couples.  Sometimes the couples just look so darn cute and matchy-matchy it kind of makes you sick.

2.  Famous people promoting random items.
3. Beautiful people promoting anything.  (This particular one below is a popular girl group promoting Dior Cosmetics)

4.  (To the American eye) VERY metro-sexual men promoting very metro-sexual items. ex. skin care products

4.  Sexy women selling just about anything…but usually soju (Korean national liquor).

5. And lastly, advertisements filled with inappropriate sexual innuendos.  (or so I’ve heard…since I can’t read them).  For this last one I did my own research for ads with translations to see if this is true.  I was proven correct with a few outlandish and absurd ones.  One of which, that most can understand without any translation, is this television commercial below.  The video was not on youtube, so I cannot embed it.  Just click the link below.

This is a commercial for a Vitamin drink.  One can tell mostly from watching  that this whole video implies sex.  Whats more is that the dialogue uses the popular Korean expression “Going to Hong Kong”.  The girl says expression at the end of the commercial.  I assume you can guess what that may be implying to as well.

I’d like to finish each of my new blogs with a meaningful and completely sensible phrase taught to me by my students’ English notebooks.  These paper  notebooks are available for purchase at grocery stores and they have a different ones for each subject.  The covers of these notebooks have different designs, pictures, and most importantly, English phrases.

Miss you

Stranger if you passing meet me and desire. To speak to me.

Why should you not speak to me?  And why should I not speak to you?

What is hope?

Ah, yes.  It totally makes sense.  I feel enlightened.   (If you haven’t sensed the sarcasm yet then you must be especially confused).  I would also like to add that this particular notebook was pink and had a random picture of the Eiffel tower.


Thanks for reading 🙂


P.S. this blog goes out to Veronica.  Who appreciates analyzing and studying advertising sometimes just for the hell of it.  Hope you enjoy!


3 Comments leave one →
  1. March 29, 2011 4:25 pm

    Damn! Korean men are sooooo sexy! 😉

  2. Lena Carlson permalink
    March 29, 2011 6:47 pm

    Hi Jessica,
    Great blog, I am truly enjoying reading about your South Korean Adventure. What a fantastic experience!

    I agree with your co-teachers…you ARE a very pretty English Teacher!!

    Thanks for sharing and look forward to your next installment:)

  3. veronica permalink
    March 30, 2011 1:32 am

    haha i enjoyed the plastic surgery one and damn i wish there was a condom ad on here that would be funny! and what is hope jessica? you should ask your students that and see what they say lol!!

    You would make Saghafi so proud!

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