Jang Yewon, Ga Aeran, and Bae Hyunjin. What do they all have in common? First of all, they used to be SMU publicity models, but they have another similarity. They are currently working as news anchors at broadcasting networks. From these examples, students can’t help but wonder if being a publicity model is the gateway to being a news anchor. If so, what do SMU students, the school, and most of all, the models themselves think of SMU publicity models?
What Do You Think about ‘Publicity Models?’
To understand publicity models, it is important to understand how and why they exist. Sookmyung Women’s University annually selects publicity models. There is a 3-stage selection process: documentation, interview, and camera test. During each stage, candidates are eliminated. Last year, no models were selected. However, three students among over 150 applicants were chosen to be the faces of Sookmyung. The roles of publicity models are yet mysterious and unknown to most students. Hwang Haekyung, from Department of History and Culture ’13 said, “Although they have a sophisticated image similar to that of a career woman, they seem distant and unfamiliar.” With the exception of these places, it is not easy for students to encounter publicity model faces. As a result, the distance is created between models and students. Unseen barriers increase as alumni who work as television news casters are later reported by mass media to have worked as publicity models. There are several articles describing how SMU publicity models got their start anchoring after workings as publicity models. These reports seem to be the main reasons SMU models are viewed as news anchor ‘wannabes.’
The image of publicity models at SMU differ according to position. Understanding the difference might help resolve the students’ idea of the models. To do this, the Sookmyung Times interviewed three different people: currently enrolled SMU students, SMU’s PR team and publicity models themselves.
- Enrolled SMU Students
A majority of currently enrolled students thought the school valued looks the most. According to a survey by SMT, about 80% of students considered “look” the most valued factor by SMU when choosing publicity models. In addition, about 40% chose “Being a Publicity Model is the gateway to be a news anchor,” to the question about why students want to be school models. Kim Gina, Department of Food and Nutrition ’12 said “Whether it is used as a gateway to a career is unknown, but I think the announcer image is the ubiquitous impression students get from the models. Most of all, students feel models only engage in activities aimed at recruiting new students to the school. They do not benefit enrolled students. According to the survey, 81% of students believe the main role of the models is recruiting students to the university. This has led to lack of interest as well as information about real-life of the models inside school.
- PR Team
Gu Hyojeong, a deputy section chief in Public Relations, said that the most important thing when selecting publicity models is to not focus on just one trait. There are various things that need to be considered. In addition to being kind, having a clear future vision, a clean image, showing genuine love for SMU, and civic virtues, there are a lot of other things that need to be taken into consideration to qualify as a publicity model of SMU. Also, unlike what some students seem to think, it is not true that ‘beauty’ is the most important factor. She also said, “Of course, the school cannot ignore beauty, but it is just one of the criteria. If we focused solely on beautiful students, why wouldn’t we have the camera test first? This is also clearly stated on the poster of the publicity model audition this year.” We can clearly see that the copywrite of the poster: “Action is beautiful. The Mind is beautiful. Ability is beautiful. We seek Sookmyungians who are universally beautiful.”
- Publicity Models
This year, three Sookmyungians including Cho Sohye, School of Communication and Media, Bae Hyeji, Department of Multimedia Science, and Yu Jihye, Department of English were selected as publicity models representing SMU. Interviews with all three models revealed the same answer: “To be a publicity model, looks are not important.” Rather, they all emphasized that models had to possess values that SMU holds tight. The fact that all three models had different characteristics was also notable. Cho Sohye, represented SMU’s “Creative Intelligence,” Yu Jihye “Wholesome Personality” and Bae Hyeji “Social Contribution.” Moreover, only Cho Sohye is preparing to be a news anchor. Yu Jihye said “I never thought about building my career as an anchor, rather I am focusing on my ROTC activities.” Their backgrounds as students are also very different. Also Bae Hyeji said, “I used to be in the Ambassador Club and I am currently volunteering with social services for those who need help.” Rather than looks, their characteristics seem to be the reason why they were chosen. All three models asserted that publicity models should stimulate SMU students’ love of the school as well as better connect the school to its students. The three models have differences and similarities, so it is understandable why they were chosen to represent SMU.
To Be a ‘Real’ Publicity Model
To develop mutual understanding between the school and students, what can be done? The school should widen its variety of school models. At Hanyang University, they have two types of honorary ambassadors. One group publicizes the school while the other group represents each college and majors. Jung Hoyoon, from the College of Performing Arts and Sports ’08 who is representing his college explained the situation as follows: “There are different standards between two publicity models. Those representing their majors must meet kindness, major professionalism, and enthusiasm standards while publicity models focus on activities in and out of school.” Likewise, specifying two types of models can increase familiarity among students thereby diminishing the idea that the school seeks only beauty. The value of publicity models lies in the fact that they are the ones representing SMU; they are the school’s identity. They should not be negatively viewed as a gateway to success or neglected. To diminish school model stereotypes, it is important for the school to make them more approachable. Interaction with enrolled students as well as the school is needed. Lee Huijin, from Department of Chinese Literature ’13 said, “It would be better if the models were more involved in school activities rather than engaging solely in photo shoots. After selection, we rarely see their work, so we don’t feel a connection to them.” Most of all, like all three models said in their interviews, “A Sense of Responsibility” is what is gained by being a model; we should not forget that the models are striving to improve the school by maintaining themselves. Engaging the thoughts of both sides would create more intimate and integrated image of SMU.