The Korean government wants Korean alcohol companies to tone down the use of young celebrities in ‘sexually suggestive’ ads reportedly aimed at young Koreans on the net.
SEOUL, South Korea — Banned by government regulators from advertising hard liquor on television, Korean alcohol companies turned to the Internet to push the hard stuff. Now the government is demanding they remove what many view as highly sexualized ad campaigns using young stars to attract young drinkers.
Just last week, Lotte Liquors yielded to government pressure and pulled a provocative series of soju video ads featuring 4Minute’s Hyun-a (20), Sistar’s Hyorin (21) and Kara’s Gu Ha-ra (21), dancing “suggestively” in skimpy outfits, in all their barely-passed-the-drinking age glory.
One of the ads in particular features an opening sequence of K-pop star Hyorin saying, in Korean, “I won’t let you down,” before touching herself in a highly suggestive manner.
The ad campaign, which at some point actually does show the soju (a popular Korean rice liquor), has been dubbed, “Chum-Churum” (처음처럼). This is after the product name, which roughly translates to “Like the First Time,” referring to “new” and “beginning,” according to the product’s Wikipedia page. The page also claims that the softer-tasting blend is more appealing to female drinkers—which could explain why the ads were designed to stir the male libido.
In a released statement following the ad pull, Lotte Liquors, the country’s second largest producer of soju, said, “We decided to halt the ad on Friday following a recommendation by the government that it could affect young people.”
While that may well be part of the reason for scrapping the campaign, the more likely incentive was threats by the Seoul Municipal Government to unleash the National Tax Service on Lotte for an audit if they didn’t pull the provocative campaign.
“HyunA, Gu Ha-ra and Hyorin will show a youthful sexy look. Even though all three are young, you can look forward to their new charms creating a new image.”
The ads, which replace Chum-Churum’s previously controversial campaign featuring singer Lee Hyori, were released on the company website in early December with a “no one under 19” warning. While classified as “adult content”, the ads have become widely available on video sites such as YouTube.
Though now buckling under to government pressure, Lotte Liquors was initially unabashed about the use of young stars to promote its product.
“If Hyori’s the original sexy icon who stands out and is well-received by the public, HyunA, Gu Ha-ra and Hyorin will show a youthful sexy look. Even though all three are young, you can look forward to their new charms creating a new image for ‘Chum-Churum,’” the company said in a release at the launch of the campaign.
For Lotte Liquors, news of pulling the ads will no doubt increase their, ahem, exposure. In response to the publicized pull, company officials said they will edit the ads for re-release on their website by making them more “appropriate”. Considering the product appears for only a few seconds in the middle of the video clips and then shortly at the end, one wonders how this will be accomplished
An Internet commenter on the videos, which have also been the subject of K-pop fan voting, said, “So now they are dancing like strippers? I don’t think these young women, who are role models for young kids, should be doing soju commercials.”
According to government-released statistics, liquor ads appear an average of 574 times per day in the print media, and on radio and television. The study also noted that of the 22 models featured in the liquor ads studied, 17 are celebrities. This follows the trend in South Korea, where roughly two-thirds of Korean ads feature celebrities, as opposed to 10 percent in most other developed countries.
With teen drinking becoming a growing concern to Korean authorities and public advocacy groups, this is likely the first volley in what will be an increased campaign against youth alcohol consumption. The legal drinking age in Korea is 19 years old, but according to government findings last year, young Koreans typically start drinking alcohol between 12 and 13 years old.
Here are some of the videos. There are several others, most of which you can see on this YouTube user page.
Photos courtesy of Lotte Liquors.
Additional reading: 90 Years of Soju