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Korea Tourism Board’s virtual influencer slammed for resemblance to Red Velvet star

A virtual influencer and promotional model for the Korea Tourism Organization, Lizzie Yeo, has come under fire for looking like Red Velvet’s Irene, according to allkpop. Since July, Yeo has participated in several promotional contents for South Korean tourism. Yeo then began to gain attention for her uncanny resemblance to popular female celebrities, including Irene and singer/actress Kwon Nara.

The Culture, Sports and Tourism Committee also criticized the virtual character. A committee member compared a photo of Yeo side-by-side with the star and said, “The one on the left side is Yeo and the one on the right side is Irene. They look alike. There are serious concerns about the portrait rights here.”

The character was apparently created with features considered popular among MZ generations. The Korea Tourism Organization created the virtual character to act as an honorary ambassador. To produce Yeo, it cost around US$557,000. On the Korea Tourism Organization’s website, Yeo is “the world’s first virtual traveler who travels all over Korea every day to discover beautiful hidden landscapes.”

In South Korea, there are about 150 virtual humans. These virtual humans have starred in commercials and music videos and now even act as honorary ambassadors.

Rise of the virtual influencer

Virtual influencers are nothing new to the marketing and advertising industry, with brands from F&B to fashion industries leveraging them to engage audiences. The past few years have seen an increase in virtual influencers from Lil Miquela and Shudu to Margot and Zhi, but how do they fare among consumers compared to their human counterparts?

A Milieu survey conducted last December in Southeast Asia with 1,000 respondents each from six countries showed that trust has yet to be built with virtual influencers.

Only 12% of respondents in Singapore, Malaysia, Indonesia, Thailand, the Philippines and Vietnam believe they are more credible than human influencers, while 31% believe they are less credible than human influencers.

In Singapore, 50% of respondents think virtual influencers are less credible than their human counterparts, while 30% and 22% of Malaysians and Indonesians think the same. Meanwhile, 47% of Indonesians and 39% of Malaysians think virtual influencers are as credible as human influencers. This was the case for only 22% of Singaporeans. Fashion, games, tech and movies/music that can be promoted using virtual influencers.

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