In the 20th century, the governments of many countries produced glossy magazines in foreign languages which were used to promote the nation’s image overseas.
Recently I was looking at two such magazines from the two Vietnam’s in the early 1970s. The different ways in which they represented their respective country are very interesting. Many covers have pictures of young women, but the way young women are represented are very different.
Here are a few images. The first come from Viet Nam Magazine, a magazine which was published in South Vietnam. The table of contents page for this magazine provided information about the cover photo of the issue. I will write below the photos what is written about each photo in the magazine.
“This is the willowy, graceful and refreshing beauty of the Vietnamese girl which caught the eye of VNM lensman Dong Thai Dien. Their names: Le Mai and Thanh Mai of the Le Bao Tinh High School in Saigon.”
“Miss Pham Thi Hieu, well-known singer, relaxes among flowers at Saigon zoo.”
“Movie and stage luminary Kim Vui holds Presidential Award for best performance by a movie actress in 1970 for her role in “Chan Troi Tim” which is packing movie houses all over South Vietnam.”
“Nguyen Thi Kim Anh, 24, finished her high school education in a Catholic institution in Dalat and now works in a business firm in Saigon. She goes for tennis and swimming and hopes to travel abroad someday.”
“Pretty, vivacious, and young Nguyen Thi Tuy-Phuong has a flair for clothes that leaves Vietnamese teeners agape with envy. Miss Phuong received the best-dressed prize at the Pop Festival held in Saigon last Jan. 30. The taste for clothes runs in the family. A younger sister, Nguyen Thi Tuy-Nga, who we intend to feature in a future issue, copped second prize.”
The magazine that the government in North Vietnam produced was called Viet Nam. Many of the covers of this magazine also feature pictures of women. However, there is no information about who they are.
I’m guessing that omitting any personal information was intentional. Perhaps the idea was that these people were not individuals but represented all Vietnamese women.
In contrast to the images presented in the North’s Viet Nam, the South’s Viet Nam Magazine does not give the sense that there was a war going on. You also do not see any working class people.
I was therefore surprised to come across this image of a woman in a rice field on the cover of Viet Nam Magazine. However, when I read the information about the picture, it said. . .
“Actress Bach Lan Thanh poses by a rice field that promises a bumper crop. Once a rice exporting nation, Vietnam is nearing self-sufficiency in this product and looks forward to exporting rice again in the near future.”
Finally, the Viet Nam Magazine also carried this advertisement promoting tourism.