By Kim Tong-hyung
Figure skating megastar Kim Yu-na is probably Korea’s most transcendent personality, so it’s assured that her every move and every word will be discussed, dissected and debated until the Internet runs out of pages. The latest buzz surrounding the 22-year-old surrounds her decision to be the spokeswoman of Hite, the best-selling brand of local beer.
While fans are delighted to see a playful Kim sing, dance and smile on television waving a silver Hite can, doctors’ groups aren’t so pleased. Korean Academy of Addiction Psychiatry (KAAP) Sunday released a ``what-has-the-world-come-to’’ statement, raising concerns over sports stars appearing in advertisements for alcoholic beverages and the effect they could have on youngsters.
Hite is just one of the many companies hiring Kim to pitch their products, which include electronics, food, cosmetics and footwear.
``We need regulations that prevent athletes from appearing on commercials for alcohol as well as real discussions to renew the rules governing the advertising of alcoholic beverages,’’ said Shin Young-chul, a psychiatrist at the Gangbuk Samsung Medical Center in Seoul and senior member of KAAP.
``This is a country that suffers from increasing drinking problems, but the government is still disregarding the seriousness of the issue and has yet to make genuine efforts to improve the country’s drinking culture. The governments in advanced nations impose stronger controls over how beverages makers market their products than over here and now.’’
Shin pointed out that professional athletes are banned from pitching alcoholic beverages in the United States. The makers of the beverages are also tightly controlled from airing images and sounds of people drinking beer.
Kim, the defending Olympic figure skating champion, has dramatically reduced her athletic activities since her conquering the competition in Vancouver. That hasn’t kept her from appearing frequently on televisions shows and commercials as she becomes a person who is famous for being famous, with her athletic achievements becoming fewer and farther in between.