Actress Gong Hyo Jin’s “Retro” Coffee Advertisement Sparks An Intense Debate Among Netizens

Some see the whole concept as problematic.

On April 8, 2020, the South Korean coffee company Maxim released its latest promotion with actress Gong Hyo Jin.

In these new “retro” themed posters, the beautiful actress boasted her charm in an old-school floral polka-dot dress…

… holding an iconic red thermal bottle that was once a sensational item for coffee lovers back in the 80s.

Unfortunately, when these nostalgic pictures got shared on Maxim’s Instagram account, some Korean netizens found the whole concept inappropriate. They criticized the brand and the actress for agreeing on a risky “retro” concept. These netizens commented, “The outfit and the thermal bottle can only represent one thing” — which meant the Korean dabang escort culture.

  • “Um… That thermal bottle is the same one dabang resi women carried in old dramas and stuff. They used the bottle because it was a freebie from ordering so much coffee mix. I hate this.”
  • “I liked the other outfits, but the one in the red with the thermal bottle is definitely dabang resi style.”
  • “What concept was Maxim going for? I can’t believe this got approved.”
  • “I don’t know if I’m the dumb one for immediately thinking of dabang resi outfits when I saw this… but I can tell you one thing: That is not how retro works.”
  • “I can’t unsee the strong dabang girl vibes from this. And dabangs in general don’t hold the most positive reputation… So I’m really not sure what Maxim was aiming for with this whole promotion.”

Back in the 80s, some Korean dabangs (coffee shops) hired young women — called resis to deliver coffee to men in these thermal bottles. While not applicable to all coffee shops and deliverers, most of these dabang resis offered paid companionship and even mild sexual favors.

A “dabang resi” delivering coffee in a thermal bottle to a motel room, as portrayed in a K-Movie scene

Now, in historic K-Movies and K-Dramas, a dabang resi is often portrayed this way. Here’s a scene in the K-Drama Triangle, featuring a resi who delivers coffee and other services to a billiard hall. Note the thermal bottle on the table, in the background:

And such a comparison drove Gong Hyo Jin’s fans to become absolutely outraged. Not only did they argue, “Families too used these thermal bottles at home to keep their drinks hot”…

  • “But she is not at a dabang. She is clearly home. This whole set up reminded me of my grandmother’s place, actually… So I don’t know where everyone got the dabang idea.”
  • “Who in their right minds link thermal bottles to dabang resis? I thought of spring picnics and hot tea… What is wrong with some people?”
  • “Am I the only one who wants that thermal bottle though…? It’s cute. If it works well, I would love to order myself one.”

… they also mocked these netizens of their inabilities to understand the retro fashion and concept in general.

  • “I’m sorry, I actually thought about buying a dress that looks like hers because she made it look so good. What part of this is supposed to remind me of a dabang resi?”
  • “You know what… Let’s drop this. They obviously only see what they want because that’s all they know.”
  • “I’m sorry, I’m old enough to know the whole dabang culture in Korea. This shows how immature some people on the internet are. Red dresses do not symbolize anything.”
  • “What…? But the whole outfit is super cute. What are they talking about? How is this not retro but a poke at dabang culture?”
  • “LMAO, excuse me. But I am also from the 80s… I can’t believe people have the audacity to link that dress to dabang fashion. Why are they creating fuss over nothing?”
  • “Am I the only one who thought of the 80s Japanese anime? Which part of this is supposed to be dabang style?”

Overall, Gong Hyo Jin’s fans are obsessed with the whole pictorial…

… and love the subtle traces of the actress’s most beloved character Dongbaek from her recent hit K-Drama When the Camellia Blooms as well!

  • “This reminds me of Dongbaek! I loved that drama.”
  • “She really knows how to make the retro concept work.”
  • “Where can I buy myself that entire set? The dress, the bottle, and the cup?”
  • “She looks gorgeous in old school fashion!”
  • “What a great concept! I love Gong Hyo Jin’s retro look.”
Source: THEQOO (1) and (2), Nemopan and Wikitree