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Cigarette advertising in the Republic of Korea: a case illustration of The One
  1. Timothy Dewhirst1,
  2. Wonkyong Beth Lee2
  1. 1Department of Marketing and Consumer Studies, College of Management and Economics, University of Guelph, Guelph, Ontario, Canada
  2. 2Dan Program in Management and Organizational Studies, University of Western Ontario, London, Ontario, Canada
  1. Correspondence to Professor Timothy Dewhirst, Department of Marketing and Consumer Studies, College of Management and Economics, University of Guelph, Guelph, Ontario N1G 2W1, Canada; dewhirst{at}uoguelph.ca

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Korea is regarded as the world's eighth largest cigarette market, which reflects a sizeable population of the country and roughly 40% of Korean men being smokers.1 2 Moreover, Korea has been identified as one of the lowest (machine-measured) tar delivery markets in the world. According to internal corporate documentation from Philip Morris, Korean smokers prefer lower (machine-measured) tar and nicotine products that are complemented with promotional appeals relating to luxury.3 The primary marketing communication channels utilised by tobacco firms in Korea appear to be the print media (ie, business and fashion magazines with a predominantly male readership, given legislation, the National Health Promotion Act, which stipulates that cigarette advertisements cannot be directed overtly towards women), retail merchandising (eg, ‘power-wall’ and sales-counter signage in convenience stores) and packaging.1

The Korean tobacco industry is dominated by four firms: Korean Tomorrow and Global (KT&G), Philip Morris International, Japan Tobacco International and British American Tobacco. KT&G has nearly a 70% market share, while Philip Morris International, Japan Tobacco International and British American Tobacco have a collective market share of approximately 30%.4 In this paper, we provide a semiotic analysis of packaging and promotions for KT&G's The One, which is a brand with a relatively low machine-measured tar delivery. Semiotics refers to the theory of signs, and offers an interpretive approach to the study of signs and produced meanings.5–7 As will be seen in this paper, The One packaging makes use of ‘white space’ to convey prestige, purity and healthiness consequently, it is argued that the use of white is generally ill-advised for plain packaging prototypes. We present several examples to show that important obligations of the WHO's Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (WHO FCTC) have …

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