Many of you contacted us with the news that a report by MBC, Korea’s oldest broadcasting network, was ruffling some feathers amongst expats on the Internet. The short four and a half minute clip (a copy of which is below) detailed the alleged dangers Korean women face when dating seemingly predatory foreign men. The clip included footage of these men, (who were largely characterised as Americans) and interviews with their lady “victims”, one of whom appeared to be in a wheelchair, thanks to an unfortunate use of lighting.
The aims of the video are fairly self-explanatory so, rather than go over the same ground again, check out some of what our fellow Korean blogs were saying at the time. A blog post about it in the Wall Street Journal also cropped up this week, as did several English-language pieces in Korean papers.
In short, the use of editing, dramatic music and sweeping generalisations in the video would have been quite funny, had it not been for the fact that it was also rather xenophobic. A copy of the video first appeared on Facebook here and, within hours, was shared thousands of times amongst expats and Korean friends alike.
However, koreaBANG didn’t share it for the simple reason that it just wasn’t being talked about on the Korean Internet. As many of you know, we work hard to find what is popular or trending amongst Koreans on the Korean internet and this short report hadn’t even made a dent. It wasn’t until almost a week later that a popular article emerged on Korean news portals and, even then, that was only because expats were (perhaps quite rightly) protesting outside the MBC Headquarters in Seoul. Online Newspaper OhmyNews was the only Korean media outlet to pick up on the report with an article that become quite popular on Nate, other papers, however, remained uninterested.
This is in the middle of an already sticky patch for MBC which is suffering from its “indefinite general strike“, a strike that news anchor Bae Hyun-jin, has found herself on the wrong/right side of, as reported in today’s other koreaBANG article. The strike is largely over the government’s attempt to control Korean broadcast media so, it’s worth noting, this kind of “documentary” (that was out-sourced to an external productions company) is the kind of sensationalist and tabloid piece that gets broadcast when the real journalists are on strike.
The below article, translated by koreaBANG’s Noori, is about a protest expats held outside MBC earlier this week. Rumor has it, there are more to come, according to the Facebook group created to campaign against the video that has already been joined by over 8,000 members.
Korean netizens are now picking up the debate, the most heated of which is taking place on Nate. What is particularly interesting is that, while the majority of the comments recognise the generalisations and xenophobia of the original report, the debate seems more divided along gender lines. The guys are criticising the girls for being too “easy” whilst the girls are criticising the guys for being hypocritical and overgeneralising.
Just makes you realise some of these differences might be solved over a bottle of soju or two. After all, everything’s much, much easier when you’re ever so slightly drunk…
We’re just dating Koreans: don’t treat us like criminals
At 2 o’clock in the afternoon on the 3rd of June, expats with blonde and gray hair etc one by one started gathering in front of MBC Headquarters. Accompanied by Koreans, there were seventeen of them in total. They performed a ‘silent protest’, lining up under a tree across the road from the headquarters. There was no sensationalism or disruption; they expressed their ‘rage’ peacefully.
‘The programme labeled the ladies dating foreign guys as ‘victims’. I’m here to show my disapproval, because of its biased way of reporting.’
Ron Oliver (47, Voice actor) who has been living in Korea for 16 years since he got married, reluctantly called his wife, Han Soo-jung (41, English teacher specialsing in TOEIC), ‘his victim’. The programme that he is referring to is a 5 minute video broadcasted on MBC’s Every Minute of the World Through a Viewfinder, titled ‘The Shocking Reality about Relationships with Foreigners’.
‘I felt humiliated while watching the programme’
The show reported on the promiscuity of some Korean ladies when dating foreigners, as well as some foreigners taking advantage of Korean ladies sexually and/or financially. One anonymous source on the show even claimed that he met a Korean lady who was infected with the HIV virus by her foreign boyfriend. The protesters all agreed that they felt humiliated by the show.
Han Soo-jung said, ‘We got married for love,’ she added ‘They didn’t recognise healthy multicultural couples and geaneralised all Korean women-White men relationships. It’s deeply upsetting for couples like us.’
Sabrina Hill (33), who is managing a non-profit organization(The Centre) that helps North Korean defector ladies, asserted that MBC has to apologise publicly.
‘I was shocked by the video. It was surprising that MBC allowed to let it out, considering it was so full of prejudice. They didn’t even bother to make sure whether the impregnate-and-run guy story was true. I also doubt whether they did the fact check for the HIV claim. If this kind of incident happened in Canada, the network would have to be out of business.’
‘Expats should be treated as a part of the society with respect, not as subject to prejudice’
The protest ended around at 5 o’clock without any significant events. MBC didn’t send anyone to see what’s going on, and major media was not interested in the first place. The protesters planned this gathering on Facebook, where they exchanged their opinions. It was one hundred and four of them who showed interest to be part of the protest, yet most of them didn’t show up, which was disappointing for the protesters.
However, Claudia Maison (28, Lecturer), who mostly led the protest said that ‘There aren’t many of us today, but we are going to take various measures to get the message across, such as Flash Mobs in places like Myeongdong or Gwanghwamun,’ and she added ‘We love Korean society; we’d like to be respected as much as we respect Koreans. We’d like to show that we really care about Korea.’
And Gina Friesen (31, Graduate Student), a Canadian, said that ‘If you judge foreigners based on prejudice, you may lose opportunities to meet great people,’ and ‘there are more and more foreigners visiting Korea, so I hope to see more Koreans trying to understand and embrace different cultures.’
Meanwhile, expats in Korea who watched the programme are sharing the video and debating on websites such as Facebook and others. Rob Yates (26), a British national and middle school English teacher in Seoul, posted the video on his Facebook wall just after it was aired. Other expats got furious, commenting that ‘It’s horrible’, ‘I can’t believe what I just watched’, and ‘This video is a totally xenophobic propaganda.’ There is also a Facebook group, with 7,937 members as of 4th of June, sharing a variety of thoughts and feelings.
One of the expats on the Facebook group commented that ‘The issues on the video was pretty much universal between men and women’ and a Korean member commented ‘I feel ashamed to see that MBC aired this sensational joke without any proof or fact-checking’.
Conversely, some members showed different opinions, ‘The purpose of the video was to criticise the ladies, I think expats are overreacting’, or ‘It might be true to some extent, and they seemed to intend to warn those who have no idea.’
Comments from Nate:
Aren’t some Korean ladies quite sexually open to white guys? I heard many white guys aim to meet those ladies.. I’ve seen a lot of them in Hongdae on weekends.
There are always rotten apples everywhere, and the rest of us share the blame ㅠㅠ
Get rid of Hongdae.
Ha, this video is funny. Aren’t Korean guys impregnate-and-run experts? I heard Kophinos are up to 10,000 or so.. Who are we to blame foreigners?! My guy friends once said that most of the ladies hanging out with foreigners at Hongdae are kind of ugly. Korean guys are very rude to ugly girls, worshiping lookism. Why wouldn’t those girls embrace foreign guys’ attention, if the guys are nice to them? Lookism has to go… and stop cursing foreigners and mind our own business.
What are you going to do about Korean guys who go and do the same thing in Southeast Asia? I’m not trying to make a sweeping generalisation here, but… It’s not fundamentally wrong to point out mistakes, just please, don’t generalise everyone…
I’m a man, but white guys seem better than Korean losers. What those [Korean] bastards do is call Korean women ‘boseul-achi’ or tell them to ‘Join the army’ [referring to military service]. What’s the point of meeting those losers? Ladies, you should date foreigners.
I met my college friends at Hongdae the other day. After we split, I was catching a cab with my friend, a little bit drunk, it was around 1AM. Then a white guy showed up and said, ‘wanna go to a motel with me?’ I snapped and said, ‘Leave me alone, you crazy bastard.’ Come to think of it, some bitches might go along with them, considering their blatant choice of words. I felt really horrible and humiliated to be a Korean woman at that moment.
My girlfriend is Russian. When we walk together, we get surrounded by strange gazes and trashy words ㅠ Some women even went so far as to say that my girlfriend looked like a ‘whore’. Of course, my girlfriend had no idea, smiling up at me. It was heartbreaking to see her treated like that ㅠ
You guys keep mentioning Hongdae and Itaewon.. Aren’t those places supposed to be the capitals of nightlife in Korea? The girls having fun in those places do not represent all Korean women. It’s irritating every time I hear stories like this. How would you feel if I generalised all Korean guys based on the Kophinos in the Philippines?
Internet losers always call their women ‘boseul’, yet they pretend to be nice and sensible men. I’ve seen only one guy who speaks like an online loser in person. He was in his late 30s, single ajossi . He was like, ‘Korean girls are looking for guys out of their league’, ‘I like foreign women’ blah blah ke ke.. To tell the truth, only losers who cannot date a Korean girl are trash talking Korean ladies. (They have personality issues, let alone their appearance or social status) Honestly, would you talk down to Korean ladies even though your girlfriend is one of them? Their trash talks are naturally from within their crappy social circles. Remember: birds of a feather flock together, you online loser guys.
Seriously, don’t trash those expats who married Korean ladies. They didn’t do anything wrong. Considering they didn’t walk away from the relationships and got married, they are guys with responsibility. To be honest, don’t we Korean guys like Japanese ladies (except for the ugly or old ones)? The same goes for foreigners.
It’s nauseating to hear foreigners say things like, ‘If this happened in Canada, the network would have to be out of business,’ ‘Korea is weird in this regard. In the US, we cannot even imagine things like this’. We don’t usually take these words seriously though, think deeply: they are implicitly looking down on Korea, suggesting that they are always right. When in Rome, you should follow Roman law. If you don’t like it, go to your country.
It’s hard to deny that Hongdae has moved away from its [artistic roots].
When I went to one of the Itaewon clubs last week, I saw 3 to 4 foreigners hitting on girls, saying, ‘Oh, we love Korea,’ this kind of crap. Then one of the girls fell over and hurt her jaw on the way to go to the lady’s room, bleeding hard. Those guys started shouting that it wasn’t their fault, although no one’s saying anything to them. The security asked them to be quiet, and they went outside. I met them outside of the club, as I was going home. And one of them was smoking and saying, ‘She’s crazy’. He was hitting on the girl a minute ago and THAT’s how he dealt with the situation? Wherever foreigners are, Korean girls are next to them. When I went to Eurwangni beach, it was quite a sight: foreigners and Korean girls playing drinking games, and their suggestive language. They were noisy all night in front of our guest house. Wake up, people.
Those bad apples ruined everybody’s reputation. It’s a shame. Do you seriously think Koreans don’t do those things to each other?
When Korean girls date guys: If the guys are foreigners they spread their legs automatically. But with Koreans, they ask questions such as, ‘Does he own a house under his name?’ or ‘How much money does he make?’.
Korean guys are stupid: they go to Southeast Asia without their wives for sex tours; there are no shortages of sex-crimes; there are loads of sexist articles on crappy websites such as ‘DC Inside’ and ‘Ilbe’; however, those losers are desperate to date a girl. I don’t understand those guys bitching on girls dating foreign guys ke ke .. Who are you to judge the girls? You’re judging them because your mind is dirty ke. I can see your level of maturity, you assholes.
I’m a guy but, it’s not like the foreigners were raping them or anything. The girls voluntarily spread their legs. Since their sex was consensual, why do we bystanders have issues with it??? Whatever happened to those girls, from HIV to lost money, is their business. And it’s wrong to generalise all foreign guys.. When Cho Seung-Hui shot all those people at Virginia Tech, did Americans think all Koreans were potential school shooters?? They didn’t.. Wake up, people.
They are protesting in Korea, yet what’s up with all those English picket signs? They basically look down on us, so they had it coming.
There may be ‘some’ healthy relationships between foreign guys and Korean women (of course, they might find my statement upsetting), yet ‘mostly’ they are not different from the video. As long as there are horny white guys thinking Korean girls are easy, and girls living up to their expectations.. I’ve met a lot of those people in Hongdae and Itaewon.. It’s a stretch to call them ‘some’ cases ke