Thai skin-whitening ad sparks outrage on social media

Image: Wattanapak Jinsirivanich, managing director of Yulihan Group (Thailand), the company that produces Seoul Secret beauty products, poses next to an ad for Seoul Secret Collagen Peptide during an interview with Reuters in Bangkok January 9, 2016. REUTERS/Jorge Silva


By Amy Sawitta Lefevre and Jutarat Skulpichetrat

BANGKOK (Reuters) – An advertisement for a skin-whitening product in Thailand has drawn criticism on social media and sparked debate over beauty ideals and advertising standards by claiming you “need to be white to win”.

A pale complexion is highly valued in Thailand, particularly by women, and is associated with a high social status. Darker, tanned skin is associated with lower class people who work outside in the fields.

The advertisement, for a skin-whitening pill called “Snowz”, made by Thai brand Seoul Secret, and posted on video website YouTube, features one actress whose skin gets darker next to a rival with light skin.

“You just need to be white to win,” runs the tagline.

Some members of Thai-language forum were dismayed and angry.
“I’m perfectly fine being dark-skinned and now you’re saying I’ve lost? Hello? What?” said member 1575141.

“Suggesting people with dark skin are losers is definitely racist,” said another user.
It is the latest in a series of advertisements deemed insensitive that have drawn criticism in Thailand.

“Thai craze for whiteness rears its ugly head again,” a prominent social-media commentator who goes by the name of Kaewmala posted on Twitter.

The video was removed from YouTube later on Friday.

Wattanapak Jinsirivanich, managing director of Yulihan Group (Thailand), the company that produces Seoul Secret beauty products, apologized and said the advert was not meant to stir controversy.

“We did not intend to create this issue,” he said. “We would like to apologize and we will fix it.”

“Our message is to take good care of yourself and continue to do so.”

(Additional reporting by Patpicha Tanakasempipat; Editing by Robert Birsel)

Copyright 2015 Thomson Reuters. Click for Restrictions.

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