South Korea Restricts Foreign Language Use in Advertisements

According to new guidelines set by South Korea’s state-appointed agency that monitors South Korean broadcasters, TV advertisements are now banned from containing foreign languages or songs for more than 15-seconds of a 30-second time slot.

In February of this year, both Japanese clothing brand Uniqlo and French cosmetic brand Christian Dior were cautioned for using all-English language scripts to promote their products in ads that aired on cable-TV in 2014.

The Korea Communications Standards Commission said in a statement: “To reflect the growing use of foreign languages in TV commercials and better enforce the law, we specifically set the time limit for foreign language use in TV ads.”


Korea restricts foreign language commercialsThe Korea Herald reports that the (KCSC) regulation covers “the narrative of product slogans, company names and catchphrases spoken or written in foreign languages. When foreign languages are used, Korean subtitles should be added to offer enough information for local viewers.”

A statement from the KCSC implied that the decision was about truth in advertising –of which the consumer must have a clear understanding what is being promised by the brand.

“The society has become more accepting of English and the use of foreign languages reflects the changing social atmosphere,” the KCSC said. “But those who are not familiar with English or having difficulties in reading Korean subtitles can possibly be excluded. And a flood of foreign language use can have an impact on teenagers.”


According to the Herald, a report by National Institute of Korean Language said that a total of 6,815 TV commercials and programs breached the “correct” language use rule on TV last year –with 31.9 percent using unnecessary foreign languages, 25.7 percent having errors in subtitles, 10.9 percent using online words and 10.1 percent using defamatory language.

It is expected that the new restrictions will likely stir up an ongoing debate over the state’s restrictions on commercial freedom of expression.