Sunday, January 28, 2007

Apple, We Have a Problem

If you're an Apple retailer, I'd suggest this is not the way to endear yourself to the company. Our own (unofficial, I think) Apple store in the COEX Mall, Seoul. Not an iPhone, not iTV. Nope, hand painted Nazi toy soldiers. Jobs would not be amused.

Check out Adolf in the balcony.


Anonymous said...

I am not shocked until I know the context of the display. What there a collection of historical soldiers from a bunch of nations throughout history, and this was one set? Or was it exclusivly Nazi toy soldiers? What it dramatizing a battle from WWII (Saving Private Ryan and Indiana Jones both have Nazis in them too!)

Was my grade-school history book promoting Nazism? After all, it had a photograph of Hitler and Nazi soldiers in it!

There is a huge difference between promoting Nazism, and showing Nazism in its historical context. People nowadays seem to be looking for sinister intent in totally innocent things.

Anonymous said...

Not to diminish the seriousness of this, but why would there be any painted miniatures in the window of an apple store?

Anonymous said...

No, YOU have a problem if you think a display of toy soldiers is something to get all bent out of shape about.


Anonymous said...

I don't see the Big Deal about this....after all people in the United States get to drive around with "W" bush stickers on their vehicles.

Mitch said...

It's just not that shocking to me.
Many Germans were soldiers in World
War Two. I'm sure many of them
were not such bad people.

Exhibiting models of the soldiers
is significantly different from
endorsing the policies of the

If the models had been of US soldiers would that imply insensitivity to the plight of
the Iraqi people?

Anonymous said...

Who is to say Jobs wouldn't be amused?

Anonymous said...

Is it because the Koreans are so far removed from anything Jewish (and Roma for that matter) that they don't understand the true nature of what this all represents? Or do they know full well and just don't care? (Im not being sarcastic, Im asking because I don't know)

Maybe its their way of acting out against the Japanese pre-WWII master race mentality (they were allies after all) without having to hit close to home or without having to show Japanese soldiers and be bombarded with complaints by expats and the Japanese consulate.

Kyle Armbruster said...

...So HOW is this a problem, exactly? It's not a sign that says "Be a Nazi! Kill Jews! Buy Apple!" It's someone's own personal WWII diorama. It's the kind of nerdy obsession you see all over the world, and especially in Asia.

Give your shock a rest.

And while we're at it...

Apple is a corporation. It is a machine that generates money. It is not a religion. It manufactures the same crap (with admittedly pretty and SOMETIMES intuitive design) as every other electronics company, built by the same Chinese factories, sold with the same ridiculous markup, contributing to the same environmental problems as everyone else. Steve Jobs is not the reincarnation of Buddha or the second coming of Jesus; he is the CEO of a big, money-grubbing (that's their job!) corporation.

Steve's personal opinion about this store is going to be based on how much revenue they generate, not on the owner's hobbies.

Anonymous said...


Craig Campbell said...

Maybe I'm naive, but I'm not sure what this *means*. It's unclear to me how the display of these models is necessarily prurient or in poor taste.

What I find more interesting in this example is that it seems to represent a situation where a global brand is localized through the particularity of Korean forms of display and interior design.

Chili said...

It's the new Apple iZan - The New Face of DRM Enfocement !

pepero said...

I don't think i saw those nazi toys when i was there in summer. But having hand painted toy models are considered cool in korea so i doubt they care if its offensive in other parts of the world...

Alec said...

I only saw Nazi soldiers, and they have been changed to another set. It's probably just the owner's hobby, which he oddly chooses to display in the window of his shop, odd in the way, at least, that a collection of porcelain unicorns would be odd in the window display of a book store. I don't think his intent was to be sinister or insensitive; the last thing he would want would be pissed-off customers going to another shop, or a call from Apple. He probably didn't, in my opinion, know better. That's the problem.

In Korea some people have some ideas about Nazis and Jews that strike a lot of westerners as bad news (yes, many westerners have these views too, and many Koreans don't). Showing that these things are offensive to some seems like a good idea, and doesn't seem to me like "getting bent out of shape". Just becareful where you show off your symbols of evil and death.

An American, for example, who slapped a sticker of the Japanese WWII military flag on his car because he thought it looked cool could stand to learn more about Nanjing or the occupation of Korea by the Japanese. In another imperfect analogy, a display of Japanese Imperial soldiers in China Town or Korean Town would certainly offend a lot of people.

I do not think the sensitivity of (some) foreigners to Nazi symbols is something Koreans need to go out of their way to consider (offense to these symbols is not the only the prerogative of foreigners, by the way; plenty of Koreans would be upset). I do think they should strongly consider it if they're a foreign company's representative, however unoffically.

Jobs not being amused is likely, and it's a reference anyway. I have no real opinion about that guy one way or the other.

Please feel free to comment, although they're moderated, and I don't feel like having a big debate about this here: you can make up your own mind. If you're not offended, great. I wish I weren't.

Links to white power websites have been and will be rejected.

Anonymous said...

It all depends on context. If you put this display up in Berlin, you would be arrested. If you put a display up of KKK members in Atlanta, people would have a harsh reaction. Koreans aren't sensitive to this as others are. Since Apple is a multinational, I am sure there are plenty of people who would flip out on it.

John said...

Isn't displaying Darth Vader and his Stormtroopers even worse? I mean, Vader blew up a whole planet!

Anonymous said...

I suppose Bin Laden figures would be offensive, but Hitler and his Nazi party are not?

Anonymous said...

It was only Alderaan. Rebel scum had it coming.

Tom said...

The banner in the one marching by the balcony says made in china on the back...thats kinda funny

Anonymous said...

What a load of rubbish. Who gives a flying fuck what Apple or Micro Soft display in their shops? They are both a pile or shit anyway. It's time people who keep publicising this shit on the intranet got a good kicking

Anonymous said...

"I don't see the Big Deal about this....after all people in the United States get to drive around with "W" bush stickers on their vehicles."

Wow, that's just ridiculous. Do you listen to yourself? You people and your far-out comments make me actually want to vote republican.

Anonymous said...

Why are toy soldiers sitting outside of a computer store anyway?

I believe it is the purgative of the store to put Nazi figurines in their window. They are an authorized reseller of Apple products, not an Apple Store proper. Apple should have absolutely no say in what the store puts in its window.

If Apple doesn't like it, they can take their reseller license else where.

Stephen said...

I agree with many of you that this just isn't a big deal. The problem doesn't really lie in the fact that it could be offensive to people, the problem is that it is bad business practice. Maybe the guy is just showing off his hobbies or hoping someone will want to buy it but putting it in the store window of an Apple store is not the right way to do it. Its the same concept as using your company email address for your personal affairs. You just shouldn't do it, offensive or not. This is the point that I think Apple is going to stress if they talk about it as they will probably want to steer away from talking about the controversy of the toys themselves.

Jordan E. Rosenfeld said...

I'm always interested in the intensity of these debates. I was surprised at how many people essentially told you that you were blowing it out of proportion. I think the Nazis are always going to symbolize death, evil, etc. So yeah, I understand your shock/surprise/offense. I even wonder if the owner of the shop wasn't, in fact, making a statement of some kind. And PLEASE...don't let my name fool you. I am not Jewish. Even the Jews don't consider me Jewish. But I am sensitive.

Anonymous said...

They were still there as of 3pm today. There are different collections - "Chinese street scenes", other cutesy scenes. They are available for sale.

I bet, though, they won't be there much longer. If you want your Nazi trinkets, get 'em soon...

Alec said...

First of all, Alderaan was peaceful. They had no weapons.

Second, when I took the pictures three weeks ago, or four, there were only Nazis toy soldiers (they can indeed be called "toys" regardless of who "plays" with them). The next week there was a different scene up. I have no idea what's there now.

(I didn't notice any "cross marketing" advertisements either, not that that would make it less offensive to offended: "Here are Nazi figures - you can buy them too!".)

I appreciate all the posts, I guess, but this isn't a board about Nazis or the Holocaust. If you have something to add or a point that hasn't been made, feel free to post, but watch your mouths please.

Nothing with profanity will get posted, even if it's a good point. Don't waste three mintues typing theories of Aryan racial supremecy or things like "This is a hate crime; the owner should go to jail". Those will be rejected.

My original email to boingboing said "There are nazi soldiers displayed in the window of an (unoffical) Apple store. I was stunned. It was shocking." I was pretty offended, but I wasn't outraged, although some people might be. Apple probably would be unhappy; they probably couldn't do anything about it. The owner probably meant no offense; he probably has the right to do whatever he wants.

The implication of my email to boingboing was that this kind of thing is likely not what Apple would like to have displayed (yes, it's not their store), and it wouldn't hurt if people like the Korean owner - for example - were aware that Nazi regalia so blithely displayed can be deeply offensive.

Anonymous said...

I think the photographs are selective: see the one of the doorway entrance. In that photo you can clearly see Allied World War II paratroops suspended from the ceiling. The seller probably has the full range of this companies' products on display if you were to look closer. (The manufacturer is called King & Country, a former Royal Marine based in China, hardly the stuff of Nazi wet dreams).

Anonymous said...

Toy soldiers and models are a hobby subject that has been around for centuries. I've painted them for years.

Many hobby folk like to build and paint the archetypes from history.

Although Germany lost WWII they made an impression on the rest of the world that will leave stereotypes of death incarnate for years to come.

Compare how many model kits there are of Panzers vs British tanks...

jonathan said...


I appreciate the letter you sent to boingboing in response to mine. It's always good to hear back from people and learn more about their ideas.

You'll be happy to know that my Korean wife basically has the same idea that you do. Koreans usually don't learn much about the Second World War outside of their own country's experiences with Japan. (I can remember more than a few Koreans I met being less than impressed with the Tom Cruise "The Last Samuria" movie. They found the glorification of Japanese culture a bit off putting.) According to my wife, it's likely that the person who set up the display at the store had no idea that some people would find it in bad taste.

Perhaps next time the owner will choose robots instead of soldiers. To add a cultural twist, I notice that many of the robot models in Korea are based on characters from Japanese books and cartoons.

Alec said...

Comments were closed, but I should add what Carole wrote:
I work for COEX Administration. The figures in question have been removed. The Apple Store employees immediately understood when I (a foreigner who communicates in English mostly) explained why it wasn't a good idea to have them on display. No debate was necessary.

I would appreciate it if you could mention this in your comments section, and perhaps encourage your readers to let Koreans know when something that seems innocuous to them might be offensive to international visitors.

Thank you.

I don't think anyone thinks the store was intending to be offensive, and I'm not surprised they were understanding. Thanks for your time Carole, and I hope it wasn't a problem for anyone at COEX.

(And thanks, Jonathan, for your comments too.)