Commercial-Only Stars Let Down Their Fans

  • By Chosun Ilbo columnist Shin Hyo-seop

    November 24, 2011 13:18

    Shin Hyo-seop

    One of the most popular topics on the Internet in recent weeks has been a TV commercial featuring actress Lee Young-ae. The ad, for a telecom firm, makes use of the femme fatale image Lee perfected in the movie "Sympathy for Lady Vengeance." It was good to see her on the screen again, but it was also sad that we can only see her in 30-second commercials instead of feature films.

    "Sympathy for Lady Vengeance" in 2005 was her last film, and her last TV series was "The Jewel in the Palace" in 2003. Since then, she has kept in the public eye with a string of commercials, for which she earns more than W1 billion a year (US$1=W1,151).

    Lee is not the only star who can only be seen in commercials. Ko So-young has not appeared in any movie or TV drama since 2007 but instead sells shampoo, rice cookers, construction materials, electronic gadgets, cosmetics and food products. Some report say she made W4 billion from ads over the last year.

    Superstar Bae Yong-joon recently started appearing in an ad for a gas company and has made no TV drama since "Taewangsasingi (The Four Guardian Gods of the King)" in 2007 and no movie since "April Snow" in 2005. He only made a cameo appearance this year in the TV drama "Dream High," which he produced. Other top stars Jang Dong-gun, Kim Nam-joo, Jung Woo-sung, Jeon Ji-hyun, Kim Tae-hee and Lee Hyo-ri also appear in more commercials than TV programs or movies. This may be a reason for a contemptuous view that Korea is the only country where top stars are more dedicated to signing ad contracts than to their own profession.

    There is no shame in appearing in a commercial. In a capitalist society, there is no rule that limits actors to appearing only in films or TV dramas when their fans and consumers want to see more of them. Advertisers are also responsible for this phenomenon. If they have the money, they can hire any actor to pitch their products. Among the 2,000 commercials produced in Korea last year, 65 percent featured celebrities. In the U.S., United Kingdom and France, the rate is less than 10 percent. But under these circumstances, how can Korean ad companies come up with original ideas and take the industry to the next level? And why should consumers have to shoulder the extra cost for the astronomical fees paid to celebrities?

    Fans probably just want to see Lee Young-ae, Bae Yong-joon and Ko So-young, and if it has to be in a commercial, so be it. But these stars became famous because of their fans, so they owe it to them to produce more worthwhile work.

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