As a girl takes a bite of pinkish strawberry ice cream, her lips are taken in closed up shots. Such scene is a part of the advertisement film for Pink Star Ice cream, released by the famous dessert company Baskin Robbins Korea. It instantly stirred up a heated dispute over the issue of child sexualization, and the company was blamed for hiring Ella Gross, a ten-year-old rising child star. Yet, if it were not for the government’s idleness to take their hands off in reinforcing the existing regulations, this problem never would have happened.
Within the release, the Baskin Robbins commercial sparked a heated debate online regarding whether the advertisement was sexualizing children. Some users claimed that the makeup and clothes she wore were inappropriate for her age and that such decorations were intended to make her look as an adult woman. In contrast to such negative response, other audiences insisted that online users were exaggerating the situation and that her makeup was suitable for the advertisement.
This is not the first time for advertisements to undergo a controversy of child sexualization. The debate over the following matter intensified in February, when one of the children apparel businesses was accused of taking photos of a child model wearing inappropriate underwear. It brought a wide-range of condemnation from the general public, and petitions were sprouted out to regulate such unworthy ventures and to vigorously punish the violators. But with the government being slow on the uptake, it allowed the abusers to create another victim, such as the Baskin Robbins controversy.
Under the existing system, the Korea Communications Standards Commission can issue legal sanctions to the company when a certain advertisement depicts a sexualized image of a child. Article 45 of the Regulations on Broadcasting Deliberation states, “Children or teenagers are not allowed to appear on televised programs wearing overly exposed clothes.” Yet, there are no clear standards for “excessive body exposure” and “overly sexual scenes,” which evidently shows the limitations of present system.
With the rules being ambiguous, many businesses have been able to circumvent the law and produce explicit contents featuring adolescents. In fact, only one case was subjected to the legal punishment in the past three years for failing to follow the juvenile protection regulations. In a nutshell, the government has treated such an issue as a trivial matter, not giving much thought to it, giving room for fraudsters to exploit loopholes.
However, other countries do not take the case of child sexualization lightly. For instance, the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA), a regulating committee for advertising in the United Kingdom (UK), applies strict rules when assessing the obscenity of material. The ASA focuses more on how the advertisement looks to the consumers, rather than the producer’s intent, with every part of the image such as clothes, makeup and poses taken into consideration. Due to this harsh enforcement, a perfume commercial in 2011 was banned for depicting Dacota Fanning, a 17-year-old actress then, in an overly sexual manner.
The general public is constantly urging for more regulations to protect the children against the erratic greed of grown-ups. Yet, such decisions are left to the hands of the administrators, and if the government is not determined enough to reform the law, no change will be made to the existing problems. Not only should the officials clarify the vague statement of current rules, but a more thorough inspection-- similar to the level of the ASA-- should also be carried out when assessing the adversity of the commercial.