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Protesting fur at the Fendi fashion show in Seoul

June 5, 2011

Sunnie and I were so grateful to be able to participate with around 200 other protestors at the Fendi fashion show in Seoul a couple of days ago. Protestors shouted “No fur! No Fendi!” and “Mopi Bandae!”, meaning “against fur!” at the 1000 attendees of the show as they entered. Two protestors also managed to somehow make it into the show itself, briefly disrupting it, something I haven’t seen reported in the English press.

As we recently blogged, Seoul city’s government took a big step a couple of weeks ago in asking Italian fashion house, Fendi, to cancel the show unless they remove fur from the upcoming fashion show being held on Seoul’s brand new “Floating Island”. They had decided that fur was way too controversial for the first major event at the Floating Island, which is a man-made island in the Han river paid for with taxes.

Seoul's Floating Island

However, after a strong opposition/accusation from Fendi, and a bit of bribery in the form of some scholarships, internships and design contests for Korean design students, Seoul ultimately decided to allow Fendi to hold the show given that Fendi reduce the amount of fur. However Korean reporters present at the show reported that Fendi increased the amount of fur items from originally 20 to 30 items.

Korean animal activist groups such as CARE, KAWA, and KARA had warned Seoul that they would protest should fur be allowed in the show, so we thought it was really important to be at the protest and signed up with KARA to attend.

We arrived, received some KARA t-shirts, grabbed anti-fur signs and headed up to the entrance to the fashion show. We were told that we needed to stay 20 meters apart and were not allowed to talk to each other in order to be “individual” demonstrators as the organizations themselves were not allowed to protest by the entrance.

The entrance had two lines of security in black suits and sunglasses doing their best to look menacing. We were asked to move further apart several times or to move out of the way. One guy in particular seemed to want to scare off Sunnie. He was trying to tell her something in completely unintelligible English (we think), and she was being hilariously not helpful by replying to him that she couldn’t understand him. Since he’d heard her speaking to me in English, he didn’t understand that she’s Korean, and she didn’t feel the need to help him out since he was being a jerk. Later, she was threatened with prosecution for no apparent reason until one of the other security guards told the guy to just let it be.

The entrance was right by a parking lot and a pretty busy bike track. We held up our signs and a lot of Koreans were passing by on foot or bike, enjoying the good weather and stopped to look at the signs, some offering encouragement. I was interviewed by a reporter from the Korean Times, an English language newspaper in Korea, and spoke with him for quite some time. He mentioned that he was a reporter for the business department so he was unfamiliar with the issues but had been asked to come by and report on the controversy.

CARE at Seoul Fendi Fur Protest

He seemed to be approaching the protest from a business aspect, asking about companies’ profits and why consumers should care. His article shows this some as I think he was looking for logical arguments and not ones colored by emotion; he seemed to think the dramatics that CARE was presenting- ripping bloodied stuffed animals apart, having a woman walk with a train dipped in red paint over Fendi’s name, were over the top. He did mention that looking at the fur farming videos CARE was showing made him think of his dog at home, however. Ultimately, I think his article misses the main point: he seems to think that the dramatics didn’t have much to do with educating consumers, but the dramatics are necessary to highlight the issue and make consumers pay attention.

Korea is the number two market for fur in the world, so obviously, Koreans buy fur and haven’t had a problem with it. But as we blogged about before, Korea has a show, Animal Farm, on one of their main television networks devoted to animal interest stories, many of them animal welfare stories, and recently featured an episode on fur farming.

Furthermore, our favorite, most awesomest Korean celebrity, Lee Hyori, highlighted the issue by tweeting her disappointment with Seoul’s reversal on Fendi, saying “Dear Mayor of Seoul, who claims to lead creative and revolutionary Seoul – they say that on May 16th in West Hollywood, CA, it became illegal to sell fur coats. Are you really going to stand by and let the fur show open in Seoul?”

The threat of protest made a mark, as not a single Korean celebrity was in attendance at the show, a fact missed by the English press. Despite the fact that this was the first Fendi show in Korea, no one wanted to become the center of attention with this controversy and all reported that they could not attend the show. Fendi had to bring in Chinese celebrities, such as Zhang Ziyi of Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon as the Korean celebrities stayed away.

Kids protest fur and Fendi

The protestors included two large groups of high school students and elementary students participating with such enthusiasm. The children were wearing “no fur” bunny ears and holding stuffed animal rabbits in front of a banner that read “The company of blood, Fendi. The city of blood, Seoul.” They were cute little kids, but they were persistent and chanted their messages “It hurts so much! Don’t skin us!” to the attendants for a very long time, which impressed us a lot.

Seoul Fendi fur protest

A truck with a large video screen showed scenes from the documentary The Witness, which we blogged about previously, while the letters spelling out FENDI sat soaked in “blood” below.

Seoul Fendi fur protest

Ultimately, it was very exciting to be a part of the protest. Sunnie and I have both been battling colds and were really tired that day, but we were so energized to be a part of a groundbreaking event for animal rights in Korea that we became full of energy and even had trouble sleeping that night. It was such a memorable way to celebrate my birthday.

You can check out English news videos on the protest below:

CARE has up a good collection of links to Korean videos of the protests and more pictures here and KARA also has a nice collection of pictures (which we were included in as well) here.

6 Comments leave one →
  1. June 6, 2011 12:45 pm

    Thank you for this report, Bill. I’m so disappointed to learn that the city went back on its forward-thinking decision. What is the point of taking a stand if you’re going to end up weakening after all? So I really appreciate that you and Sunnie took the time and trouble to go to the public protest and make yourselves heard.

    I love the chant the children were saying. And hooray for Hyori! 🙂

    It looks like it was a dismal day, weather-wise, and the new facility was not showing to good advantage–which is great, because it decreases the “glamor” of the event.

    • Bill permalink*
      June 9, 2011 9:26 pm

      Hi, Lu! The weather was actually pretty nice; although, it was overcast. Even though it is disappointing that Seoul reversed its decision, it actually was a way to have that first protest and get it in the news. It was all over the news broadcasts, so hopefully the message got across to more people because of it. If you think how far things have gone in terms of public awareness since our post on fur in the dramas and the Animal Farm episode to not a single Korean celebrity showing up at the fashion show due to public pressure, that’s amazing. As for the glamor, most of the people kind of rushed in due to all the protestors.

  2. June 16, 2011 9:01 am

    Seemed to go over extraordinarily well for the organization’s first protest. I imagine they’ll be emboldened and even more effective next time around. I don’t see how you could associate yourself with fur without acquiring the stigma. That has to make a difference down the road.

    • Bill permalink*
      June 17, 2011 9:19 am

      I definitely agree. We were really unsure what to expect when we showed up, but they had their act together and were out in force. Hopefully, the Korean market for fur will start a steady decline. I’m interested to see how much fur will show up in their entertainment in the future since it’s been quite visible to this point.

    • Sunnie permalink*
      June 18, 2011 6:23 am

      Yes, hopefully the change will come soon!

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