Monday, March 19, 2007

Slightly Used

Sometimes I need a break from all things Korean and start flicking through the TV channels in the hope of finding something I can actually understand for a bit of mindless entertainment. This is how I ended up watching most of Die Hard twice in three months - I'm sure there's a really clever analogy with the use of the word 'trapped' in there somewhere. But every once in a while, Korean TV serves up something which makes surfing through sixty channels of Korean drama and direct shopping worthwhile.

So yesterday I came across a ten-minute segment on a shopping channel simply entitled Get Used Underwear. Fortunately, this is not the legitimisation of some underground fetishist need, and unlike Japan, fortunately there do not seem to be any used underwear vending machines on street corners in Korea, but rather, this is either a cunning marketing gimmick or one of the most monumentally unfortunate uses of English I've seen since arriving here (although this one is probably right up there at the top).

Both the boxer shorts and women's underwear had the phrase Get Used splashed across them, so for a brief moment I thought how appropriate it would be to have some as a condemning indictment of relationships generally. But I couldn't help thinking that this clever post-90s acceptance of social roles and social breakdown was probably a little beyond the Korean marketers who came up with this, at least as far as their use of English is concerned. And can you sell anything under the the Get Used Underwear name, even in the West?

Well for a brief moment it appears you can, because elsewhere a more expansive logo was flashed across the screen, revealing that Get Used Underwear hails from New York. So perhaps this really is another American brand trying to make an entrance into Korea. But I have my doubts for two reasons. The first is that a local clothes store down a back street near us proudly proclaims its other branches to be in New York and Paris, when clearly they aren't, reminding me for all the world of a TV series back home in which a dodgy street-market trader has 'New York - Paris - Peckham' written on the side of his van (there's a lot of that going on here - I don't think the Koreans have any advertising standards bodies). The second reason is that having searched on the Internet the only reference I can find to 'Get Used Underwear' and 'New York' is an invitation to visit an underground S&M club in the city and sites where genuine used underwear can actually be purchased - oddly enough including eBay (no doubt Google will be serving me dubious sex ads for the next month now and somewhere an American government database will label me as a sexual deviant - although they probably think that about all foreigners anyway).

So Korean TV will continue to advertise used underwear during the day, perhaps cleverly but one suspects
actually oblivious to its connotations, while no doubt there will continue to be much scratching of heads in the English-speaking community.

1 comment:

Jon Allen said...

they probably sell it a shop down our way called 'sold out'.
or the one called 'purely decadent'.
or the one called 'oooh and aaah'.

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