ASouth Korean tourism campaign for New York has been pulled amid criticism that it sexualizes Korean women and contains undertones about sex tourism.
The print ad series, which were released by the Seoul City Government and then subsequently yanked shortly after, features three versions, each with the silhouette of a Korean woman dressed in a traditional Korean hanbok dress against the backdrop of well-known tourist sites in Seoul.
The tagline, with the woman pulling on her dress, gives it a sexual connotation. It could be fixed easily with her just not tugging on that ribbon.
The ads, which were part of a cross promotion, were to be posted in New York City to herald Seoul as a vibrant city where the traditional and the contemporary meet.
The ads are actually quite lovely pieces of work, but the positioning of the model might well have been their undoing as critics claim it could be interpreted that the model is undressing.
The criticism also noted that the tagline, “Unforgettable Experience in Seoul,” might be perceived by sone as an invitation to seek out sexual pleasures when visiting the South Korean capital.
New Yorkers expressed mixed opinions.
“I thought she was undressing,” said Alex Costilhes, an engineer graduate who lives in New York to the Korea Times. “The tagline doesn’t help either. The tagline, with the woman pulling on her dress, gives it a sexual connotation. It could be fixed easily with her just not tugging on that ribbon.”
Also speaking to the Korea Times, New York resident Paula Martinez said she didn’t get the impression that the ads sexualized Asian woman, but that they could potentially feed into some Western stereotypes.
“The directorial choice to have the model pulling on the ribbon is kind of weird,” said Martinez. “I can definitely see how it might play into the Western fetishization of East Asian women. Like, that being used to draw white men to come to Korea for tourism. I feel like it’s not that overt, though.”
A women’s policy expert in Seoul, who asked not to be named, said: “It can be misleading, since a female’s image is limited to a traditional female, the silhouette is emphasized and the tagline is suggestive. There is a problem with illustrating Seoul in such a manner to a foreign country.”