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want to be her, Men want to mate with her:

The (ab)use of women in soju advertisements.
" ": .

Adrian Tomas Samit

Shin Joohak, the CEO of Star Empire is checking out the costume design of the
Nine Muses () K-Pop group. The clothes are already quite provocative
and full of sexual connotations, but still the CEO says, I have an idea to make them
look sexy. Make it shorter, Ok? The adviser replays: Dont you think they would
look cheap? But the CEO finishes the discussion saying: No, its not making them
look cheap. Theyd look sexy. Let the media talk about whats that phrase?
Honey thighs (Fig. 1). This images from Hark Joon Lees documentary 9 Muses of
Star Empire (2012) ( speaks by themselves about
the concept of woman inside the broadcasting industry. This not only happens in
South Korea, its all over the world, but the use and abuse of womens body in the
Korean media reaches the grotesque.


Unlike Scheherazades original tale, the first desire of Disneys Aladdin

(Ron Clements, John Musker 1992) is a woman. But thats forbidden, so Aladdin
desires to become a prince to win Jasmines heart. Through the years, especially in
the 90s, Disneys movies have created a conservative and unrealistic imaginary of
love and relationships: the man needs to fall in love with a princess, and the
woman needs to be a princess. Also, both, man and woman cant be poor or just
normal people, they need to create an alter ego (second self) rich and powerful.
Unfortunately, is not easy to find a magic lamp, but we have alcohol publicity
sells to us. The alcohol is the magic potion that can approach us to Disneys Utopia.
The alcohol is the elixir of our desires, our pleasure and our happiness. And, in the
case of a patriarchal society, that means the possession of womens body.

Patriarchy can be defined as a system of sex-political social relations

based on different public and private institutions and inter-class and
intra-gender solidarity established by men, who as a social group and
individually and collectively, oppress women, appropriate their
productive and reproductive power, their bodies and their products,
either by peaceful means or through the use of violence.
(Fontela, M. 2008)1


Lets start analyzing (Chumchurum) advertisement2. Chumchurum
is the (soju) (South Korea's most popular alcoholic beverage) of the company
(Lotte). The commercial starts with three men, alter ego of male spectator,
seeing the pictures of (Kara), (Hyuna) and (Hyolyn) in a soju
bottle. The famous K-Pop singers are ready to fight (to captivate the men). After
saying the magic words, we enter inside the soju bottle to live the Utopia (Fig. 2).
One minute of the advertisement is the three K-Pop stars dancing choreography
full of insinuations and sexual connotations. And the camera empathize this all the
time (Fig. 3 and 4). Lets pay special attention to the shots where the singers call
each other to go to the stage. That shots are close-ups. Also, the singers look at the
camera and do a gesture of attraction (clearly subliminal) to catch the male
spectator (Fig. 5). Suddenly, the three men we saw before appear again and give
soju bottles to the actresses. Again, a frontal close-up shot of the women, in this
case to take the bottle from the spectator (Fig. 6). The soju bottle becomes a
phallus, and the girls play with it (Fig. 7). Then, the (womans) voice-over ask to us:
, ? (Who, shake you?). And we go out from the bottle;
we come back to the reality. One sentence over the image of the bottle commend to
us: ! (Choose the best on
Chumchurums website!). After this unjustified exhibitionism comes the real
advertisement: the womans voice speaks, briefly, about the qualities of
Chumchurum at the same time we can see (Kara), (Hyuna) and
(Hyolyn) drinking it. At the end, we see again the three men with their cell phones
entering on the web. And the advertiser expects the spectator do the same.

2. 3.

4. 5.

6. 7.


If we pay attention to the comments of the video on Youtube, we can see
comments of many girls who are self-proclaimed (Kara), (Hyuna)
or (Hyolyn). And many boys scream for their favorite (Fig. 8 and 9). Donny
Deutsch, famous advertising executive who was the former host of the CNBC The
Big Idea with Donny Deutsch (2004-2008), defined perfectly the purpose of
publicity: Women Want to be Her, Men Want to Mate with Her3. And this aim, as
we can see in these comments, is accomplished. That's why the advertisements
keep going like this. We need more analysis, reflections, criticism and changes.

8. 9.

Lets see now an advertisement of (Chamisul)4, the (Hite)s
soju. First of all, lets think about the name: , that comes from the English Word:
charm. In Korean we can translate this word as: (sexappeal, attraction,
magnetism), (incantation, spell) or (attraction, subtlety). All soju
advertisements play with these three meanings.

The star of the commercial is (IU), famous singer, actress, TV host
and composer. This advertisement has two versions: one focused on young men,
university students with part-time job; the other focused on adult businessmen.
We will analyze the businessmans commercial. Let us not be deceived by the
subtlety and chastity of this advertisement.

Its Friday night (Thursday night at students version) and the blur lights of
the buildings, rounded and bright like stars, illuminate IU, who looks like an angel
who is coming to the earth to give us a break and peace. This is emphasized at the
next shot when IU is going down the escalator, interrupts the song and says:
? (This Friday how about a dewdrop?) (Fig. 10). Here the
advertisement plays with the pronunciation of liquor: (sul), and dewdrop:
(seul), giving charm () to the soju. In the reverse shot nine businessmen and only
one businesswoman (placed in the middle to moderate the discrimination),
answer cool. The businesswoman starts at the center but fast is replaced by a
handsome man, who has all the attention of the spectator (Fig. 11).


10. 11.

The next scene shows a businessman working in the office at night. He opens
and spreads his arms at the same time the song says:
(Its hard the endless work but) (Fig. 12). A jump cut takes the man
to a restaurant with his friends, some of the businessman (and the businesswoman)
we saw before. The song says: (You can drink
one shot who will give you energies5) (Fig. 13). Once more, by the jump cut that
magically changes the reality and the magic power of the liquor, we return to
Aladdins metaphor.

12. 13.

The next shot is a mans hand serving a glass of soju to a woman (Fig. 14).
And the friends toast. The protagonist moves his arm from the right to the left. At
the next shot, one glass of soju in the same direction is kissed by IU at the moment
the song says: (Also late at night its good to drink).
And the actress faces the camera (Fig. 15). The male spectator has the love and
forgiveness of the woman he desires. At the end, IU enters the room. Her dress is
green as the soju bottles (Fig. 16). Everyone looks her, but she is facing the camera
again. She is the reincarnation of the soju bottle. She is the object that helps men to
accomplish their desires. And this is emphasized looking at the actress (in a shot
that cuts her head) when her green body becomes a soju glass using a cross-
dissolve (Fig. 17 to 19). Did the commercial talk about the qualities of this soju? No.
The advertisement just cast a spell on us. The way to do it is more subtle and
mendacious, more sexist, than the previous advertisement we have saw.

14. 15.

5 Its
not a literal translation, but interpreting the meaning and bringing it closer to

16. 17.

18. 19.

Chamisul, looking for that "charm", is not so direct at the time of selling the
sexuality of actresses, but is more conservative. The woman in the advertisement
is the future perfect spouse: sweet, delicate, prepared to satisfy her husband, tired
after an endless working day. IUs song is the mermaids song trying to charm us.
Here, once more, the hidden message is so subtle and is so ingrained in our
imaginary that at first glance is almost unnoticed. But it is a clear reflection of the
paternalistic society and the maintenance of its order. Also, the advertisement
plays again with the popular actress that the girls want to imitate and the men
want to possess. Lets see again some peoples comments to find examples of the
IUs charm and the blindness of the spectator (Fig. 20).


To finish this brief reflection, lets pay attention to one evident fact of these
days society: women also are regular soju consumers. Because of that, some
companies are changing their strategy and starting to produce advertisements
focused in the female viewer. (Joeunday), known in English as
GoodDay, soju (Muhak Co.,Ltd.)s soju, has lower alcohol level (16,9%) than
other brands (19-20%), so its a product popular among ladies6. The company
has been able to detect this fact and has not delayed in producing ads like the one
that we are going to analyze7.


The video has been published at products Facebook page
( accompanied by this text:
. !
!! (Our cute Park Bo-young floats like the full moon. The
charm of GoodDay that makes you fly! Try it right now!!). Of course, this
advertisement for female spectator will exploit tenderness instead sexuality. But

The commercial starts exploiting romantic movies clichs: one night with a
big, enormous, full moon; a promenade facing the sea full of old (and Parisian)
style benches and streetlights; the purple color of the moon; Park Bo-youngs dress,
that is an imitation of Dorothys dress at The Wizard of Oz (Victor Fleming, 1939),
and also has echoes with Bellas dress at Disneys Beauty and the Beast (Gary
Trousdale and Kirk Wise, 1991) (Fig. 21 to 23). The song starts with the lyrics:
(Im feeling good). At the same time appears one text that says:
tonight one glass of soju. A medium shot of the actresss pretty legs putting the
feet together like Dorothy in Flemings movie. Sounds a Tinkerbell that as magic
wand makes to Bo-young fly with the Lalalala rhythm. In the next shot, she is
ascending with closed eyes at the same time she says: Im floating in the air. Also
in this advertisement the soju is the vehicle to escape to a parallel reality where
only exist the happiness and complacency. She escapes from her twister life and
travels to Oz. The next shot is a long shot where we can she floating in the sky at
the same time she sighs with pleasure. Because as John Paul Young said: Love is in
the air. She is having almost an orgasmic experience in a medium shot where the
actress is illuminated by the moonlight. And she looks at the moon. The blur of the
buildings and the light create the sensation of bubbles floating on liquor, the
sensation of drunkenness. But its a sweet and good drunkenness (Fig. 24). Then,
the moon comes to life in a imitation of Meliess fantasy film A trip to the Moon
(1902), and with a seductive male voice asks: So, you feel good? and with
maleficence smiles (Fig. 25 and 26). The reverse shot is Bo-young in an eagle shot
angle from the point of view of the moon (the man). She looks at the camera and
(talking to the male spectator) confirms she is really happy and comfortable, and
then smiles (Fig. 27). At the end, the actress and the bottle of soju float inside the
moon. That's the sphere of pleasure (for women and men) (Fig. 28). And the
advertisement finishes with a close-up of Bo-young suggesting us to drink a glass
of soju (Fig. 29). This last shot appears in all soju advertisements.

21. 22. 23.

24. 25.

26. 27.

28. 29.

As we can see, the advertisement uses a generic topical code that mixes the
romanticism and fantasy to catch the female spectator. Also, the ad is searching a
innocent and childish mood. The commercial says to drink soju isn't bad, because
also fairies can do it. Also, difference from advertisements focused in male
spectators, this ad doesn't show the hard-working (wo)man who needs a moment
to rest. This advertisement shows a lonely girl who is searching romanticism and
pleasure. And the girl finds the wicked moon that will charm her with his smile. So,
the woman becomes a lonely bait for the man, because is what she wants, says
subliminally the advertisement. Of course, that subtle shot of she going into the
moon is a metaphor: she falls inside mans trick; or with other point of view: she
finds the pleasure she is searching, the orgasm represented by that image where
the woman penetrates the moon (the man). So, finally, also the advertisements
focused on female spectators are trying to catch the male spectators. In this
context, the ad says to the men they can charm the desired woman with GoodDay
soju and she will be not put up resistance. This fairytale is terrifying.

But, once more, we come back to the point where women want to be her,
men want to mate with her. If we pay attention to the audience reception we can
find comments like how cute Bo-young is, like the expectation of arrive to that Bo-
youngs happiness sensation, or also comments like someone who wants to marry
with the popular actress, etc. (Fig. 30)


These are only three paradigmatic examples of three different ways to
develop a soju commercial in different brands. We can find much more
advertisements with different styles. We can use any of them, do an analysis and
we will find the same pattern and the same (ab)use of womens body and sexuality.
We can be angry and we can reject to see these advertisements if we have been
angered by the evident (mis)use of the woman as sexual object. But the fast and
artificial editing impedes us stop and think about what we have seen. Advertising
works by impulses and feelings, not memory and reasoning.

Another thing to consider is the received education through the media. From
movies like Aladdin until the last videogame we can download, all the media
educate us to accept the reality where women need to seduce, and men need to be
seduced; where women need to fight for the man, and men need to prove his
courage; where women need to be delicate and lovely, and men need to be hard
worker, etc. Because of that, if we see an advertisement that attracts our attention
its important briefly analyze it as we have done now. And if we do that, we can
question the (subliminal) education we receive and educate ourselves.

We have focused in video analysis, but as we know, the soju publicity is
massive in many formats: posters, calendars, newspapers, banners, etc. And all of
those advertisements have discrimination and sexism. A good source of
information and analysis can be found in the blog The Grand Narrative
( I recommend visit it. If we search here posts
related with soju publicity 8 we would find a huge archive from different
perspectives: the use of Photoshop, ads from the male perspective, soju within the
sociological image of Korea, the evolution of the image of women in soju
advertisements, the unwritten rules of alcohol commercials, etc. In most cases the
analysis is made it using posters.

The sexist publicity doesn't appear only in alcoholic beverage
advertisements. Mostly ads of any kind of product in South Korea have the image
of a woman, and always they sell, in a more or less subtle way, her sexuality. Coffee
ads9 (Fig. 30), drinks for weight loss10 (Fig. 31), mobile phones and clothes ads11
(Fig. 32 y 33)

30. 31.


32. 33.

Everything you can imagine, if you try to do a fast research, you will find
easily many examples about all of this. Little by little, women are achieving more
equality, but they will not have the same respect until their projected image on the
media still being as we have seen in this analysis. Women must take control of the
media and begin to change this situation. The first step is to analyze and realize
what the big companies are trying to sell when they advertise a product. Which is
the real message this companies are saying to our society?

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