Convenient store chief demoted amid controversies
GS Retail said on May 31 that the operator of the country’s leading convenience store chain GS25 had punished employees responsible for a poster accused of offending men.
GS Retail operates a set of businesses. Among them, CEO Cho Yoon-sung will leave the convenience store segment. The poster’s designer and the marketing chief were also penalized.
“The disciplinary measure was notified only to the designer. As it is very personal, we cannot disclose further. In fact, we don’t know the details,” a GS Retail spokesperson said.
Throughout this month, GS25 carried out a promotional event of offering freebies to those who snap up camping food on the store’s mobile app.
And its poster showed an image of a hand reaching out for a small, steaming sausage with its thumb and index finger pinching toward each other.
Critics contended that the poster is similar to the logo of a radical feminist group, which used it as a “small penis” symbol to demean Korean men.
Issuing an apology, GS25 replaced it with a new poster without the image of the hand and the sausage.
The second poster included a moon and three stars. And this time around, some argued that it resembles a symbol of a feminist group from a Seoul-based university.
Against this backdrop, a boycott campaign against GS25 started. Its store owners complained that their sales went down at a double-digit rate this month compared to a year ago.
After the GS25 dispute, other companies like Genesis BBQ also came under criticism for using a similar image in their menu. The fried chicken chain pulled it.
“I don’t think that the two corporations intended to insult men, but they should have avoided any contents, which might be misleading,” Prof. Lee Eun-hee at Inha University said.
“The cases are the result of the deep-seated tension over gender rights in Korea. Men’s groups and women’s ones have been at odds against each other for a while.”