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2014-12-01 17:36
By Jeong Ji-su



Posted on the windows of stores of CJ’s Olive Young cosmetics chain is an ad containing the likeness of male model and actor Kim Woo-bin with the caption saying: “Because you need to be more beautiful.”

If women take any offense, they can’t be blamed because this ad carries an unveiled message: “If you fail to meet societal norms of beauty we will fix you.”

Thankfully, some people are raising their voices. One of the first to call out Olive Young was Tessa Jeon, general manager of clothing brand Varyd.

In a blog post, Jeon said the ad puts down women by saying women aren’t already beautiful enough to begin with.

Jeon pointed out that Olive Young was going against international trends: It’s more responsible to empower rather than “body shame” your target demographic.

For instance, American makeup artist Bobbi Brown says: “I believe that all women are pretty without makeup — but with the right makeup they can be pretty powerful.”

The message here is that beauty is more than skin deep.

Maybeline New York uses the motto, “Maybe she’s born with it. Maybe it’s Maybelline,” suggesting that beauty is innate, not something that can be purchased.

Jeon may have tapped into the frustrations of many Koreans, who live in a society that places a huge premium on looks, not only for marriage but also in the job market.

After Jeon posted the blog entry on her Facebook page, she received thousands of likes and sparked a long thread of comments.

Innocean Worldwide, the agency that advertises for Olive Young, said the advertisement had been misunderstood, and that the store was seeking to promote an image of “health.”

“Olive Young is not only a beauty brand, but a health beauty brand,” said Lee Ji-sook from the advertising agency. “The wording ‘to be more beautiful’ involves inner beauty as well, such as vitality and cheerfulness. It involves much more meaning than a single line of copy.”

One hopes that more people such as Tessa Jeon will step up to counter advertisements that blatantly seek to undermine a person’s confidence rather than uplift it.

Even though it’s just “a single line of copy,” women should make sure that it doesn’t get ignored. Society is already filled with too many messages that tell girls and women that they aren’t beautiful enough — which, of course, is a lie. 

Jeong Ji-su is a Korea Times intern.

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