Masculinities in Korea

How male portrayals are changed in Korean news magazines’ advertisements from the 1970s to the 1990s

Authored by: Guiohk Lee

Routledge Handbook of East Asian Gender Studies

Print publication date:  December  2019
Online publication date:  November  2019

Print ISBN: 9781138959897
eBook ISBN: 9781315660523
Adobe ISBN:


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This chapter demonstrated the changes of dominant masculinities in Korean society from the 1970s to the 1990s, when Korean society moved from early industrial society to a post-industrial society. It used a case study which collected 938 advertisements in a Korean news magazine during the period and analysed the portrayals of male models in terms of product category, male image and model displays. The findings showed that the product categories in which male models were used most apparently are different by decade. It reviewed that there were differences in which male image was represented dominantly by period. Looking at the product categories of the advertisements that mainly featured male models, male models were most frequently shown in pharmaceutical advertisements in the 1970s and fashion advertisements in the 1980s and 1990s. Also, the findings confirmed that dominant masculine images of male models portrayed in ads have dramatically changed over 30 years in Korea. Overall, the predominant images that these male models represented were the images of ‘successful/reputable men’ and ‘grooming men’ who looked after their appearances. However, in the 1970s, ‘physically strong men’ were the overriding image. In the 1980s and 1990s, the image of ‘successful/reputable men’ and the image of ‘grooming men’ who look after their appearance were most dominant. In addition, through the analysis of the physical background, interpersonal interaction and feminine displays for male models in the advertisements, it revealed that these elements were used as ways of expression to construct a specific male image. In conclusion, the results of this study showed that the dominant male images in a society are changing not in a fixed but in conformity with social change. In addition, it can be concluded that advertising plays a role of actively accepting and propagating the dominant male image in the appropriate product categories.

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