Oriental Brewery, a subsidiary of the Belgian beer maker ABInBev, has picked Kim Joon-hyun, a comedian who has a history of hitting women in their 40s for driving under the influence of alcohol, as its advertising model, sparking controversy.
When Oriental Brewery said on Oct. 8 that it selected Kim as its advertising model, criticism is mounting that selecting an ex-drunken driver as a beer model is inappropriate.
On May 4, 2010, comedian Kim hit a woman in her 40s who was walking in a Seoul area while driving after drinking with his acquaintances until late at night, injuring her three to four weeks of treatment. At the time, Kim's blood alcohol density was 0.091 percent of his license suspension level.
However, Oriental Brewery has not officially announced its position except that it did not know about Kim's past drunk driving incident, which critics say may have caused the Belgian company's ignorance of the Korean public sentiment.
"We contacted multiple PR team officials several times to hear the explanation of the controversy, but we couldn't reach them," a media outlet reported on Oct. 14.
In particular, the so-called Yoon Chang-ho Act, which calls for increasing punishment for drunken drivers who took a people's life away, passed the National Assembly, to strengthen standards for driving under the influence of alcohol.
It has led to the growing criticism that the beer company has selected the ex-drunken driver as a model for its product.
Yoon Chang-ho, then 22, died in September 2018 after being hit by a car while on vacation after joining the military as a college student. At that time, the driver of the vehicle who hit Yoon was found to have been driving under the influence of alcohol, causing public uproar, and petitions were presented to the Presidential office Cheong Wa Dae, calling for stronger punishment for drunk driving.
Netizens said, "Is it ridiculous to put an ex-drunken driver as an advertising model of a beer company?" and "Drunk driving is an unforgivable crime. We won't drink the Cass beer from today." Some netizens are even raising voices for boycotts.
ABInBev acquired Oriental Brewery in 2014 and currently holds a 100 percent stake in the beer company.