SEOUL, South Korea (AP) — A rural South Korean town is being roasted over its video ad about garlic that some farmers say stinks of obscenity and has even sexually objectified the agricultural product.
The controversy surrounding a 30-second video posted to a YouTube channel for about two years for Hongseong County, a small central-western South Korean town of about 100,000 people known for its local “Hongsan” garlic.
The video shows a woman touching the thigh of a man named “Hongsan” wearing a full garlic head mask and saying words like “very thick” and “hard” to apparently describe the quality of the local garlic. It’s also a parody of a famous scene from a 2004 hit Korean movie titled “Once Upon a Time in High School.”
The snappy ad, which reportedly generated around 190,000 views, was largely kept underground but began to take root with the wider public when it was last broadcast on electronic billboards at a Seoul express bus station and a street in downtown Daejeon. month before the introduction of the garlic.
A farmer who saw the video informed some farmer groups, while South Korean media also started reporting about it, leaving a bad taste in the mouth.
“We cannot suppress our surprise,” said a joint statement by the local chapters of two major farmers’ organizations: the Korean Peasants League and the Korean Women Peasants Association. “The video insulted the people who watched it and dealt a major blow to the image of the agricultural product that farmers have laboriously cultivated.”
The video called the video “suggestive” and “inappropriate,” the statement said it was “sexually objectified” garlic.
The farmers’ groups asked Hongseong to apologize, punish those responsible for the video production and formulate steps to prevent similar incidents. Shin Ji Youn, an official with the Korean Women Peasants Association, said the peasant groups had asked Hongseong to respond to their requests on Aug. 10.
Hongseong officials said on Wednesday they removed the video from their YouTube channel and stopped broadcasting it on the billboards last week. The province has not issued an official statement on the matter, and officials said they are discussing how to respond to the farmers’ requests.
Provincial officials said they formally changed the name of their local garlic to “Hongseong” in January, after the name of their province.
Many South Koreans believe that garlic, one of the essential ingredients in Korean cuisine, promotes stamina. Some think it can also improve men’s sexual functions.
At the 2018 Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang, South Korea, the country’s curling team earned the nickname “Garlic Girls” — four of the team’s five members came from another rural town known for its own famous garlic — because they had a fairy tale run to win the silver medal.