‘Maxim’ Cover With Bound Woman’s Body in Trunk Sparks Backlash

The Korean edition of the men’s lifestyle magazine appears to depict a victim of violence.

(Photo: YouTube)

Sep 2, 2015· 2 MIN READ
Culture and education editor Liz Dwyer has written about race, parenting, and social justice for several national publications. She was previously education editor at Good.

Any internal memos about Maxim ditching its bro-tastic, raunchy image in favor of a more fashionable, woman-friendly perspective seem to have missed the inboxes of the staff at the magazine’s Korean edition. The cover of the September issue of Maxim Korea features Korean movie star Kim Byung-ok, who’s known for portraying dangerous villains, puffing on a cigarette. There’s only one word to sum up his noirish fashion style: cool.

And what makes that so disturbing to some is that Kim is smoking his cancer stick while standing next to a car—a car that has a woman’s duct-taped lower legs hanging out of the trunk. And the trunk’s lid is resting on top of her legs.

“So girls like ‘bad guys’? This is what a bad guy looks like. Dying for him, right?” reads the copy on the mag’s cover, according to an Avaaz petition started by an individual named Megal P. The petition asks Maxim Korea to remove the issue from stores and recall any sold issues. “Is it ok to capitalize on the ongoing pain of real victims, just for sexual jokes and beautification of distorted male images?” wrote the author. More than 9,400 people have signed it so far.

But Megal P. isn’t stopping with a hypothetical question and a request for the issue to be recalled: “We also plead the Ministry of Gender Equality and Family and the Korea Publication Ethics Commission to make a public announcement regarding the issue and come up with measures to stop a next potential case similar to this,” reads the petition.

(Photo: Facebook)

A multi-page photo spread inside the issue also shows pictures of a woman in the trunk of a car, along with “an abandoned dead body in a black plastic bag, and eyes looking up the perpetrator,” according to Megal P. A video featuring Kim that was posted on Maxim Korea’s YouTube channel last week also shows footage of the actor looking down at something in a trunk and then shutting the lid.

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The implication of the photos and video is that Kim may have murdered a woman and is having a smoke while disposing of her body.

The petition’s author cites statistics about violence and sexual assault against women as reasons why the cover is irresponsible. According to the 2010 Korea National Survey of Domestic Violence and Sexual Violence, 53.8 percent of respondents who had been married experienced spousal abuse in the previous year, and 16.7 percent suffered physical abuse. Korea is also ranked 117th out of 142 countries on the World Economic Forum’s Global Gender Gap Index 2014, which measures gaps between women and men in areas such as health, education, economy, and politics.

In a statement to community platform Women You Should Know, Lee Young-bi, the editor-in-chief of Maxim Korea, defended the cover as depicting the actor “directing a scene of film crime.”

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“As you can see, in the context of the cover we did depict the crime of murder and body abandonment in a film noir way, but there’s no hint of a sexual offense in the picture, and no fantasizing of sex crimes either,” wrote Lee. “Unlike some people’s concerns, we never intended to beautify sex crimes as sex fantasy. Films direct scenes for delivering a story and mood. We hope you can also see the cover as expressing a scene of crime to show the contexts of this issue.”

The petition’s author doesn’t seem to be buying Maxim Korea’s rationalizations.

Maxim targets adult males and that’s no secret. Sexual objectification of women is its daily work and expertise,” wrote Megal P. “It is just natural that sexual crimes are implied when a sex-related medium deals with a male criminal and a victimized woman. Still, Maxim just chose to say ‘it is a crime against a woman that isn’t necessarily a sex crime.’ ”