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Absolut Korea gets into hot water with new ad

Vodka brand Absolut has sparked ire among Koreans with a new advertisement image posted Saturday via social media that depicted a recent candlelight vigil.

The image shows a time-lapse photo of Gwanghwamun Square during a massive candlelight vigil, with the shape of the crowd slightly altered to look like an Absolut Vodka bottle.

The copy reads “Absolut Korea: The future is yours to create.”

Absolut Korea‘s ad image posted to Facebook (Absolut Korea official Facebook)
Absolut Korea‘s ad image posted to Facebook (Absolut Korea official Facebook)

The online response to the ad has been largely negative as Koreans expressed anger that a company would use the recent candlelight vigils calling for the resignation of President Park Geun-hye for commercial purposes.

“This would be appropriate if the event were a World Cup game or concert. But if you really know the meaning behind the event in the photo it is wrong to associate it with alcohol,” wrote one Facebook commenter.

“If Absolut Vodka had funded the vigils, this may seem like an appropriate message combining their image with a message about Koreans‘ will to move forward for a more democratic future. But this is just commercializing that photo and the current political climate. Even as a foreigner, this is inappropriate,” wrote another.

On the other hand, some felt that the reaction was overblown.

“Absolut has long been creating ads combining the Absolut bottle silhouette with different countries’ images,” wrote one commenter. “This represents Korea as going through a peaceful revolution, and it fits well with the brand‘s direction. It’s excellent.”

Since the outbreak of the Choi Soon-sil corruption scandal here, Koreans have been participating in massive weekly candlelight vigils that led last week to the National Assembly‘s impeachment of the president.

Pernod Ricard, the company that owns the Absolut brand, could not be reached by phone for comment.

By Won Ho-jung (hjwon@heraldcorp.com)
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