Seoul Secret Thailand offers public apology for ‘racist ad’

By Simon Pitman

- Last updated on GMT

Seoul Secret Thailand offers public apology for ‘racist ad’

Related tags Human skin color Skin whitening

Seoul Secret, a Thai beauty brand whose recent 'White makes you win' advert caused worldwide controversy, has now offered a public apology.

In a stunt that caused widespread offence and made international headlines, the beauty brand's ad depicted Thai actor and singer, Chris Horwang, wearing black paint on all visible skin.

After provoking uproar on both social and traditional media - for the slogan, the script and for the visual representation of skin colour - the brand has sought to make amends with an official apology.

"Seoul Secret, as the rightful owner of the video clip, would like to apologise for the mistake, and claim full responsibility for this incident. Our company did not have any intention to convey discriminatory or racist messages​," the company's statement said. 

Controversial beauty branding ​ 

In Seoul Secret's ad, which was launched to publicise the brand's skin-lightening pill Snowz, Horwang speaks of her skin-whitening routine, and attributes her career's success to having pale skin.

In response to the widespread condemnation, the brand has now pulled the advert and associated branding campaign.

"We would like to express a heartfelt apology and thank you for all the comments. Currently, we have removed the video clip, related advertisements, and other planned materials to show our responsibility in this incident,"  ​the company said.

Although an exceptionally offensive case, Seoul Secret is just one of a huge number of brands in the region which trades on the idea that lighter skin is a desirable beauty goal.

Skin lightening craze

Skin lightening has long been a major beauty trend in Asia, playing a key role in traditional beauty ideals held across the region.

Indeed, according to market research firm Mintel, in recent years, well over 30 per cent of skincare products launched in Asia have featured skin whitening claims, and a recent report from Companies and Markets suggests that globally, the trend is forecast to reach a value of US$19.8 billion by 2018.

Such products often include bleaching agents which can cause skin damage, as evidenced by the Kanebo lawsuits in Japan​, and also raise questions around the ethicality of plugging lighter-skin as a beauty standard.

But with the sector set to continue its strong growth globally, it seems that such mis-steps are yet to dent the popularity of the skin-whitening segment.

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