More Than a Pretty Face
When you make your way around the streets of downtown Seoul, you’re likely to (literally) bump into a number of life-sized cutouts like this -
No, these aren’t weird fetish centers that recreate some intimate experience with celebrities in VR or something along that nonsense (though, that is a viable business idea with all these robo-girlfriends coming onto the market…), these are street advertisements to restaurants. Most likely, the face you’re seeing is a celebrity who he or she him/herself owns the establishment.
Show host and comedian Haha and his Loco Quan 401. Source
The idea of a celebrity is much looser in Korea, taking the term “idol” from English to describe anyone that appears on TV, movies, music videos, commercials, and/or anywhere else in the public eye. Idols can include Kpop stars, television hosts, former athletes, actors/actresses, models, and in some cases, aspiring versions of all the aforementioned. Korea has a small and dense talent pool and it’s relatively easy to snag a few days of fame as long as you’re funny/good looking/unique enough.
The reason I bring this up is to underscore the fast-paced nature being a celebrity in Korea, where fame can come and go in a moment’s notice. Even household brands like Big Bang and Girl’s Generation are already disintegrating after global-levels of popularity. Unlike the US or the rest of the Western World, fame is much more fickle and celebrities are inadvertently forced to secure their future success in other, less expected ways.
Very common choices have become creating fashion lines and starting restaurants. Most celebs already have a core fanbase and it’s easy to see the transition from stage to runway or as the owner of a hot new establishment. They are their own endorsement and as such, you’ll see lots of these cutouts in Korea and some even in New York.
Pro-Wrestler turned TV host turned wildly popular BBQ restauranteur Kang Ho Dong. Source
Put very simply, even these household names know that their time in the spotlight is limited and many take on an entrepreneurial mindset to stabilize their potential income after the inevitable fall in popularity. Many of these attempts have failed of course, as many celebs have no business running eateries or even any form of business, but some of them have played their cards right to secure fairly popular go-to spots in Seoul, LA, NYC, and beyond.
Miss A’s Suzy’s Mother’s Caffe. Source
What do you think? Is this strange to see? Have you eaten at Haha’s Jamaican joint or Kang Ho Dong’s BBQ spot? Let me know below!