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South Korean garlic video ad roasted over purported obscenity

Hyung-Jin Kim

SEOUL, SOUTH KOREA (AP) – A rural South Korean town is getting roasted over its video ad on garlic that some farmers say stinks of obscenity and has even sexually objectified the agricultural product.

The controversy surrounds a 30-second video that had been posted on a YouTube channel for Hongseong County, a small central-west South Korean town of about 100,000 people known for its local ‘Hongsan’ garlic, for about two years.

The spicy ad, which reportedly generated about 190,000 views, had been largely kept underground, but began to take root in the larger public when it was aired on electronic billboards at a Seoul express bus terminal and a downtown street in the central city of Daejeon last month ahead of the garlic’s release.

One farmer who saw the video notified some farmers’ groups, while South Korean media also began reporting about it, leaving a bad taste in people’s mouths.

“We can’t repress our astonishment,” said a joint statement issued by the local branches of two major farmers’ organisations – the Korean Peasants League and the Korean Women Peasants Association. “The video offended the people who watched it and dealt a big blow to the image of the agricultural product that farmers have labouriously grown.”

Bulbs of garlic are displayed at a shop in a traditional market in Seoul, South Korea. PHOTO: AP

Calling the video “suggestive” and “inappropriate”, the statement said it “sexually objectified” garlic.

The farmers’ groups asked Hongseong to apologise, punish those responsible for the video production and formulate steps on how to prevent similar incidents. Shin Ji Youn, an official at the Korean Women Peasants Association, said the farmers’ groups asked Hongseong to respond to their requests by August 10.

Hongseong officials said yesterday they’ve withdrawn the video from their YouTube channel and had stopped airing it on the billboards last week. The county hasn’t issued any official statement on the issue, and officials said they are discussing how to respond to the farmers’ requests.

County officials said they formally changed the name of their local garlic to ‘Hongseong’ after their county name in January.

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