K-dramas criticized for insulting cultures and distorting history (Part 1)

Many K-dramas have faced intense backlash from the public for seriously insulting cultures and distorting history.

“King the Land” – Insulting Arab culture

King the Land” is aired on JTBC starting from June 17th, and is available through TVING in Korea and on Netflix in selected regions.

The drama, which stars Lee Jun Ho and Yoona, gained a large viewership but also sparked an intense controversy after the broadcast of episodes 7 and 8. Specifically, these episodes featured the character of “Arab Prince” Samir, played by Indian actor Anupam Tripathi.

King the Land
Prince Samir was depicted as a womanizer and alcoholic who enjoys partying at bars.

Prince Samir, who is an old friend of the male lead Gu Won (played by Lee Jun Ho), is invited to “King the Land” hotel during his trip to Korea. Here, he is charmed by the beauty of Sa Rang (played by Yoona), leading to an uncomfortable situation for Gu Won. In one scene, Samir was shown visiting the hotel’s bar, drinking and enjoying a lively atmosphere with beautiful women surrounding him.

However, Arab culture and religion doesn’t allow for lavish alcohol consumption nor unmarried people of opposite genders getting close. Thus, the portrayal of Samir as both an alcoholic and womanizer is a lack of respect for Arab people. Additionally, the casting of an Indian actor as an Arab prince was deemed inappropriate, leading to various people calling to boycott the drama and leaving 1-star ratings on different platforms.

Responding to the public outcry, however, the production team of “King the Land” added fuel to the fire by explaining that all the settings, plotlines, etc., in the drama are fictional, and that they had no intention of mocking or distorting any culture. They claimed to respect different cultures and promised to pay attention to the production process.

King the Land
“King the Land” faces heavy backlash after receiving high ratings

Seeing that the production team’s apology seems more like an excuse and an attempt to deflect responsibility, rather than sincerity, many people have gotten angrier. Viewers also cited that Samir was repeatedly affirmed in the drama as an Arabian prince, and eventually, JTBC had to issue an official apology and promised to carefully review sensitive scenes to take appropriate measures.

“Little Women” – Distorting Vietnamese history

The K-drama “Little Women” is based on the 1898 novel of the same name by Louisa May Alcott. The series features famous actors such as Kim Go Eun, Nam Ji Hyun, Park Ji Hoo, Wi Ha Joon, Uhm Ki Joon, and Uhm Ji Won, among others, and is available on Netflix.

Little Women
“Little Women” ended up being removed from Netflix Vietnam

Throughout the series, there were details that heavily distorted the history of Southeast Asian nation Vietnam, as well as sensitive language used when referring to the Vietnam War. A character in “Little Women” even went as far as to describe the killing of Vietnamese veterans as a “proud achievement” for certain Korean soldiers. 

In the end, the Vietnamese government requested Netflix to remove “Little Women” for the Vietnamese region. Furthermore, not only Vietnamese audiences but also many Korean viewers expressed their dissatisfaction and criticized the drama.

When the news broke, netizens on Korean online communities left comments such as, “The drama may be good, but the anger of the Vietnamese online community is understandable”, “I feel so ashamed!”, “The production team needs to apologize after this incident”, and so on.

“Joseon Exorcist” – Disrespecting Korean culture and distorting history

“Joseon Exorcist” is a drama jointly produced and distributed by SBS. The drama was permanently halted, even though 80% of the filming had been completed.

Joseon Exorcist
The scene depicted Chinese food and wine with Chinese characters on top.
Joseon Exorcist
Audiences expressed their dissatisfaction, leading to the drama being cancelled.

After the first episode aired in March 2021, “Joseon Exorcist” sparked intense controversy due to a scene featuring Chinese food and wine with Chinese characters. Seeing that the series is set in Korea, viewers accused the production team of deliberately distorting history and disrespecting Korean culture by borrowing elements from China.

Furthermore, the drama portrayed King Taejong, who is a respected figure in Korean history, as a ruthless killer, thus facing intense backlash from the public. 

Subsequently, SBS issued an apology and explanations. They also stated that they would make edits to avoid such mistakes in future episodes. However, the strong reaction from viewers continued to escalate.

After two episodes, sponsors quickly withdrew their support for the drama, and SBS announced a one-week suspension to make revisions. However, two days later, SBS confirmed that “Joseon Exorcist” would be canceled.

Amid the criticisms, over 184,000 people signed a petition to permanently stop airing the drama, which was sent to the Blue House (equivalent of the White House in Korea).

Source: k14

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