|Former Liberty Korea Party leader Hong Joon-pyo drinks Coca-Cola in this channel art of his YouTube channel, "TV Hongka Cola." / Screen capture from TV Hongka Cola|
By Park Jae-hyuk
Coca-Cola is facing potential damage to its brand image because of a controversial right-wing politician who opened a YouTube channel recently named "TV Hongka Cola," according to industry officials Thursday.
The YouTuber is former Liberty Korea Party leader Hong Joon-pyo, who lost to President Moon Jae-in in the 2017 presidential election. The name of his YouTube channel is a compound of the former lawmaker's surname and the U.S. beverage brand.
As he has been a vocal politician who stood vehemently against the Moon administration, some conservatives have called him "cider" or "sprite" as a euphemism for his tart remarks that give them a feeling of relief, as those beverages help relieve indigestion.
He has leveled sharp criticisms at the government since the opening of the YouTube channel Dec. 18, and the number of subscribers for his channel surpassed 130,000 as of Thursday.
However, internet users favorable to the Moon administration said it has become difficult to drink Coke because it keeps reminding them of the politician.
Claiming Hong tarnishes Coca-Cola's image, the minor opposition Bareunmirae Party also said in a statement the only solution is to ignore him.
TV Hongka Cola's channel art depicts the politician drinking Coca-Cola. In addition, the title of its signature content is "Hong Joon-pyo's News Coke."
Amid the growing criticism, Hong wrote on Facebook Dec. 22 that he heard a rumor that an unidentified powerful group was forcing Coca-Cola to send him complaints.
"If Coca-Cola surrenders to the powerful group and complains about my YouTube channel, I will change its name into TV Hongsi Cola," he said, implying he will drag Pepsi into the controversy.
Industry official said Hong's implied affiliation can deal a blow to Coca-Cola's young and cool image.
The U.S. beverage maker signed endorsement contracts with BTS, Park Bo-gum and Kim Yuna this year, to consolidate its lead in the Korean market.
However, Hong's name has been among the most relevant keywords to Coca-Cola on search engines.
Coca-Cola has remained reluctant to counteract TV Hongka Cola, regarding the YouTube channel as a space for an individual's political expression.
In Korea, several internet broadcasters have been mired in controversy as they have used popular brand names for political purposes.
Left-wing commentator Kim Eo-jun opened a podcast channel named "Kim Eo-jun's KFC" in June 2014, but after receiving complaints from the chicken franchise's U.S. headquarters he changed its name to "Kim Eo-jun's Papais," using an alternative Korean pronunciation for the Popeye's fried chicken franchise. .