What in the World are ‘Romantic Mushrooms?’

October 8, 2013

K-Food Campaign in U.S. Turns Out to be Bad Comedy

Minhyuk, a member of K-pop group CNBLUE, blows out a candle on a cupcake of Enoki mushrooms in an advertisement for the Korea Agro-Fisheries and Food Trade promoting “romantic mushrooms.” / Korea Times

Minhyuk, a member of K-pop group CNBLUE, blows out a candle on a cupcake of Enoki mushrooms in an advertisement for the Korea Agro-Fisheries and Food Trade promoting “romantic mushrooms.” / Korea Times

By Jung Min-ho

Even the “cute” singers of CNBLUE and sexy supermodel Yeo Yeon-hee couldn’t make Korean food look good in international advertisements that double as bad comedy.

The Korea Agro-Fisheries and Food Trade (aT) has been pushing an ambitious campaign, Korea Food Fairs, (K-Food Fairs) in American cities such as New York and Los Angeles to promote Korea’s food culture and agricultural produce. However, its advertisements have been generating sarcastic cackle due to their awkward English, unclear messages and even weirder photos and videos pairing the entertainers with food items.

In aT’s minute-long video clip, “Energizing Persimmon, Romantic Mushroom, Fit Milk, Mighty Red Ginseng, Sexy Red Pepper Paste, Pleasant Paprika, Pure Pear, Fun Makgeolli, Exciting Kimchi, Happy Ramen and Calm Citron Tea” were introduced as “Korean foods.”

Each food item is matched with a different star: you see CNBLUE’s Minhyuk blowing out a candle on a cupcake of Enoki mushrooms with lust in his eyes. Yonghwa, another CNBLUE member, seems to be imagining his paprika has a bra on it. Yeo looks as if her ”pure’’ pear was putting her to sleep.

“The commercial is snappy and slickly produced, but one or two elements are rather odd. Why are the mushrooms labeled as ‘romantic?’’’ asked a Scotsman who has lived in Korea for over a decade. “I don’t know what the producers do with the stuff, but ‘sexy’ is not a word I would associate with pepper paste.”

The biggest issue is its abstraction and lack of focus, Jia Ching Lin from Taiwan said.

“When I first saw it, I thought it was a commercial for a Korean supermarket that sells organic foods,” Lin said. “The commercial is not easy to understand because it’s too abstract in some sense.”

Jusua Ida from the United States also said he was “confused who the target audience is.”

“The graphics look to be done well, but the whole idea seems to be misguided and off the mark for an average American like me,” Ida said. “The commercial didn’t have me thinking anything positive, just confused about what the point was.”

Aside from makgeolli, Korean rice wine, and kimchi, the staple Korean side-dish of fermented cabbage, it would be hard to argue the other food items in the campaign are uniquely Korean. It was certainly an awkward attempt to put milk and “paprika” ― actually bell peppers ― in the list of K-food. And isn’t ramen, the packaged, instant noodles, more representative of Japan?

“Although it’s true that paprika can be ‘pleasant,’ it is a spice usually associated with Hungary. It’s a bit late in the day to try and claim it as Korean,” the Scotsman said. “I wish the K-food promotion well, but emphasizing quality is more likely to sell Korean products rather than strange and inaccurate claims.”

The Scotsman said he knows the word “gochujang,” which was replaced by pepper paste in the commercial, wondering why the aT isn’t trying to promote Korean names through the opportunity.

No doubt the commercial was made with good intent for Korea. Nevertheless, it just proved to be another case of misspending taxpayers’ money.

10 Comments

  1. DI

    October 8, 2013 at 11:47 AM

    Romantic mushroom is Viagra mushroom ????

  2. Guy Citron

    October 9, 2013 at 6:29 PM

    We’ve noticed this campaign as well. It’s quite a shame.
    Korean food is fantastic. To see it portrayed like this, well…

    Guy Citron
    NYKMG
    Communications Director
    nykmg.com

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