‘Jirisan’: Product Placement Displeases Viewers but Its Nothing New for K-Dramas

Korean dramas have one unique trait that always appears throughout multiple episodes. Fans are not surprised to see obvious advertisements in K-dramas, from coffee brands to beauty products. But Jirisan recently angered fans for its blatant and unrealistic use of product placements in the drama. Jirisan centers around mountain rangers who face life-threatening situations and become entangled in a murder mystery.

One of K-drama’s number one sponsors is a clothing brand that specializes in hiking gear, Nepa. But, product placement in K-drama’s is nothing new and has gone even further in being unrealistic, especially regarding luxury brands.

Actor Jun Ji-hyun as Seo Yi-kang for 'Jirisan' K-drama wearing fleece product placement.
Actor Jun Ji-hyun as Seo Yi-kang for ‘Jirisan’ K-drama | via tvN

According to The Korean Herald, fans of the K-drama are displeased at how it handles its sponsor. In the drama, the main characters are always wearing new clothing items. Throughout its episodes, the rangers rarely wear the same uniform. Many fans have complained the K-drama seemed more like a commercial than a riveting thriller.

While Nepa is a well-known brand, the product placement was unrealistic for many fans. “Even if Nepa is sponsoring, how could rangers continue wearing new alpine clothing and new fleece every time they appear? Do they just dump their clothing when get it gets dirty and get new ones?” said one viewer. Jirisan does take place over the period of three years and in different seasons. This might be some explanation as to why the rangers wear different clothing.

The clothing sponsor was not the only issue fans had with Jirisan’s product placement. In one episode, Lee Da-won (Go Min-si) brings her superior Eggdrop sandwiches. It is a popular food franchise in Korea. The inclusion of the franchise was far too unrealistic for fans. A popular franchise appearing in the remote mountains seemed unnatural.

‘Jirisan’ is not the only K-drama that uses product placement

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According to The Korean Herald, producers fund “20 percent to 30 percent of production costs through product placement.” It is one of the unavoidable aspects of K-drama’s viewers are well aware of. A majority of K-drama’s will focus on advertising popular pizzas, coffee drinks, or the infamous Iced Americano. The product placement is easy to spot when a character needs a coffee and happens to put the label facing the camera.

Another popular item is beauty products. Kahi’s Wrinkle Bounce Moisturizing Balm Stick has become a hot commodity thanks to K-dramas. The beauty products appeared on Yumi’s Cells, Dali and The Cocky Prince, and The King Eternal Monarch. With beauty products also comes health supplements.

Fans are not surprised to see K-drama characters boast about drinking a collagen or ginseng supplement. Netflix’s Lovestruck in the City made a joke about K-drama’s blatant use of product placement. The main characters are being filmed about their thoughts on love. One character always takes the opportunity to boast about the products her agency represents.

Unrealistic use of luxury brands in K-dramas

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While some product placement is easy to overlook because of its overuse, luxury brands are often a topic for debate. While Jirisan uses Nepa, other K-drama’s use luxury brands like Burberry, Louboutin, and others. K-dramas are a lucrative marketing platform for designer brands. In many circumstances, the down-on-their-luck character should not be wearing designer items.

According to Teen Vogue, Sa Hye-jun (Park Bo-gum) from Netflix’s Record of Youth is still a low-end model and actor. Despite having no money, he is wearing a Maison Margiela jacket and a Loewe puzzle bag worth thousands in one episode. When it comes to female characters, they often sport high-end bags.

In Start-Up, Seo Dal-mi (Bae Suzy) struggles financially and uses a marker to cover the scratches on her heels. But, she manages to carry around a Lanvin bag that sells for $2,000. Twitter’s most searched K-drama, True Beauty, has its female lead wear Saint Laurent and Marc Jacobs while still a simple high school student. In the mature drama Nevertheless, Na-bi (Han So-hee) is seen wearing Louboutins.

Some K-drama’s luxury product placements are justified because of the character’s storyline. The lead in Vincenzo was a mafia consigliere and could afford luxury brands. The same goes for Hometown Cha-Cha-Cha, with the female lead working as a respected dentist in Seoul.