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.
피겨스케이팅 스타 김연아 선수가 맥주광고에 출연하는 것을 두고 청소년의 음주문화를 조장할 수 있다는 우려가 나와 주목된다.
한국중독정신의학회는 사회적으로 영향력이 큰 스포츠 선수들이 주류광고에 출연하는 것을 제한하는 방안이 고려되어야한다고 주장했다.
한국중독정신의학회 신영철 이사장(강북삼성병원 정신건강의학과 교수)은 "스포츠 스타의 주류광고 출연 문제와 더불어 주류광고의 적절한 규제 정책에 대한 사회적 논의가 시급하다"며 "알콜 규제정책의 필요성에 둔감한 정부, 음주로 발생되는 문제에 관대한 우리 사회가 음주 실태를 되돌아볼 필요가 있다"고 말했다.
미국은 연방 알코올음료 관리법을 토대로 프로 스포츠 선수의 주류 광고 출연을 금지했다. 또 미국주류협회와 TV네트워크의 가이드라인에는 카메라 앞에서 술을 마시는 장면이나 그 효과음을 표현하는 것을 규제한다.