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Dongsuh hit for 'sexist' image in Starbucks coffee ad

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Dongsuh Food's Starbucks Doubleshot canned beverage ad that caused a stir / Screencaptured from Starbucksrtd Instagram
Dongsuh Food's Starbucks Doubleshot canned beverage ad that caused a stir / Screencaptured from Starbucksrtd Instagram


Company issues public apology, takes down questionable images

By Kim Jae-heun

Dongsuh Foods is under fire over accusations that it included a contentious hand gesture in an ad for a ready-to-drink (RTD) canned coffee drink it produces and sells.

The domestic instant coffee giant took down the image from its official Instagram account and posted written apologies on its website as well as Instagram apologizing for causing social discomfort.

The company wrote in the message, "The ad was designed with the theme of the summer season. We realize that part of the poster's design could make customers uncomfortable and decided to delete it. There was no specific intention behind the creation and we will make sure it doesn't happen again."

The company uploaded the ad poster for its popular Starbucks Doubleshot drink on Sunday, depicting the canned beverage laying sidedown in sand with the shadow of a person's hand that appears to be moving towards it.

A similar image of a hand with its thumb and index finger was used in Korea by Megalia, a now defunct online radical feminist community, to trigger Korean men's insecurities by belittling the size of their genitals.

Starbucksrtd's written apology posted on Instagram on July 26. Screencaptured from Starbucksrtd Instagram
Starbucksrtd's written apology posted on Instagram on July 26. Screencaptured from Starbucksrtd Instagram

This is not the first time Dongsuh Foods has been involved in controversies related to the disputed hand gesture, seen in previous ads released on July 16 and last November.

Netizens are asking for a more sincere apology and countermeasures to prevent future use of such imagery in ads.

"Dismiss the designers who keep creating such ads," one netizen wrote on the Instagram post where the ad appeared.

A Starbucks Korea official distanced the company from the controversy in a statement that indicated Dongsuh Foods is fully responsible for the controversy as Starbucks only provides the trademark rights of its brand and coffee beans to the manufacturer.

"Starbucks Korea and Dongsuh Foods are separate companies. Dongsuh Foods is licensed to produce Starbucks RTD beverages and run its own ads. Our Korean branch has nothing to do with this controversy."

Dongsuh Foods has had an exclusive license contract with Starbucks headquarters in the United States since 2005 to produce and retail caffeinated drinks under the megabrand's name.

But the hand gesture that offends some so deeply won't seem to go away, appearing in a string of commercials related to the food business since May.

GS25, the convenience store chain operated by GS Retail, was first hit for using the controversial gesture in a commercial for camping items. The retail giant immediately disciplined the designer responsible for the artwork, but a number of customers still insisted on boycotting the company.

Two local fried chicken restaurant franchises ― Kyochon and BBQ Genesis ― were also hit for using similar imagery in advertising in May and June.


Kim Jae-heun jhkim@koreatimes.co.kr


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