2017-12-06 19:51
Seoul axes Big Apple promo posters blasted for 'sexualizing' women
The promotional posters that were going to be used in busy parts of New York. The image shows, from left, Gyeongbokgung Palace, Gwanghwamun Square and Dongdaemun Design Plaza. / Courtesy of Seoul City

By Chyung Eun-ju

Seoul City has dropped promotional posters after they drew criticism for sexually objectifying women.

The posters were going to be exhibited in New York City’s Times Square and SoHo, among other areas, including 150 bus stations, from Dec. 18 to Jan 14.

“I thought she was undressing,” said Alex Costilhes, an engineer graduate who lives in New York. “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.”

New York resident Paula Martinez said it had not crossed her mind at first that it was a sexualized image. But “the directorial choice to have the model pulling on the ribbon is kind of weird,” she said. “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.”

The poster shows a woman dressed in hanbok, traditional Korean clothing, holding her breast-tie, with an overlapped image of Gwanghwamun Square, Gyeongbokgung Palace and Dongdaemun Design Plaza. Under the image is the slogan: “Unforgettable Experience in Seoul.”

“We opted for this design because trying on hanbok was very popular among foreigners and also the design shows the East’s mystery,” a Seoul City official said.

But the poor response resulted in the poster’s axing.

“We have decided to use another poster and discard the one that caused the misunderstanding,” the official said.

An expert in women’s policy, 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.”

Kim Min-ji, 31, said: “The female looks like she is about to untie the breast knot. It looks like an ad that sexualizes Eastern women.”

A man, surnamed Kim, 37, said: “Rather than the image, I think the words used in the ad are the problem.”

The poster was released on Friday and immediately drew a reaction on social media.

“I thought it showed hanbok’s beauty. I did not think it was sexual,” said Kim Hyo-un, 34.

Lee Jae-kwon tweeted: “I don’t see what is wrong with the poster.”

Seoul and New York are collaborating in a marketing campaign, with New York City ads also showcased in Seoul in a contra deal.