Wednesday, June 13, 2012

MBC to mixed race couples: Maybe you have a guilty conscience

So, just to remind, this kerfuffle involving MBC shouldn't be too shocking (see 2005, 2007 (dig the syringes and misleading translation - thanks AES!) and earlier this year, though just about any Korean broadcaster will have similar offensive moments).

The original Facebook page protesting the show now has over 8600 members, and a 'silent protest' held by Korean/foreign couples in front of MBC's headquarters in Yeouido was covered in an article titled "We who date Koreans are not criminals" which was initially published by Danbi News and then reprinted at Ohmynews (and the journalist who wrote the article, Kim Heejin, was nice enough to have it translated here), and it was apparently at one point 'ranked 8th in the most read news on a portal site ""'.

The incident was also discussed by Joongang Ilbo columnist Noh Jae-hyun in a column worth reading in Korean here, and it was translated into English here:
"Shocking Report" was truly shocking because it did not follow the most basic rules of reporting. The episode was more than uncomfortable. It was far from the truth. [...]

It is so obvious that these problems are not related to nationality or race that the MBC program must have been purely motivated by xenophobia. Whether you want to be cool or not when it comes to international relationships, keep this in mind: We are all human and love has no barriers.
The anger over MBC's report was also reported in France at Le Point, and then at Le Monde's blog. The former article has a rather vivid description of the report:
"Western sexual predators roam the streets of Seoul, hungry for fresh meat, prepared to abuse [Koreans'] purity and transmit the AIDS virus."
There are no half measures in that description.

Views of foreigners regarding the report were printed at the Korea Herald here and here, and a lengthy article asked "Does the media portray foreigners fairly?" and includes this statement by Benjamin Wagner:
“MBC has indicated that its program was more of the same nonsense portraying foreign English teachers as sexual predators who victimize defenseless Korean women and infect them with AIDS, but the irony is of course that teachers have been tested and re-tested for HIV ― how is it that they still represent an AIDS threat?” he said. [...]

“When mandatory HIV tests were introduced for foreign teachers in 2007 the argument from the government was that they were supposed to rehabilitate the reputations of these teachers and reassure Korean citizens about foreigners. Of course, the exact opposite of that has happened, the testing has reinforced the existing stigma and now it’s become acceptable for a major broadcasting network to insinuate that foreigners are spreading AIDS.”
If we remember, once Anti-English Spectrum realized they had (erroneously) come up with ammunition to tar foreign teachers as AIDS threats, it was their contributions to this article and this article which were then used in petitions to the government for HIV tests for E-2 visa holders, and it was likely this advocacy that got their leader invited to the conference where the E-2 visa drug and HIV tests were decided on in 2007.

At any rate, it's nice to see the Herald article also interviewed Mahbub Alam (who appeared in this film):
Migrant workers from East and Southeast Asia have also complained of their representation in the media, leading to the formation in 2005 of Migrant Workers TV Network, to counter what one participant described as the media’s depiction of migrant workers as “comical or miserable.”

Mahbub Alam, the director of Asia Media Culture Factory, a group of artists that often explores migrant issues, says that the media has tended to either shy away from migrant issues completely, or only depict migrant workers as “poor” and “helpless.”

He has, however, seen much change in his time here, especially from film and in the emergence of small, independent media outlets.
Hopefully not Pan Entertainment (or is it All That Media?).

To recap, the Korea Herald reported that
The lead writer for the show, made by external production company Pan Entertainment, said that she did not consider the content to be controversial, and claimed it was an accurate representation of the situation.

“Our report is based on the facts that we found as we were covering the story and it strictly reported on the present situation. We have made it clear that it only reflected the few,” she said, adding that she was concerned about the potential harm to the image of Korean women.
As she should be, considering how they were portrayed in the report. Evan Ramstad at the Korea Realtime WSJ blog quoted an unnamed MBC producer of the show:
“When they presented the item, we thought it’s a kind of issue that had been talked about for a long time, [7 years!] Korean women dating American English teacher to learn English, and especially in Itaewon area,” he said, referring to a neighborhood that’s long been frequented by foreigners due in large part to its proximity to the U.S. army post.

“I don’t understand why foreigners get angry about the issue while they are living with their spouses and having no problem,” he said. “Foreigner-Korean women couples are living happily, but why are they angry over an issue that has nothing to do with them?”

He said the piece intended to portray “Korean women who are out of their sense and get involved in these kinds of affairs.”

“We need to be awakened and try to change this culture,” he said. “We had no intention to disparage foreigners. We wouldn’t do a report about foreigner-Korean women couples who are living without any problem.”

The producer said one of MBC’s senior managers conveyed a complaint about the piece from a couple he knew in which the husband is American and wife is Korean. “His American friend got angry about the report,” the producer said. “I don’t understand why he would get angry if it’s not something he was involved in.”

To recap, the producer said the piece intended to portray "Korean women who are out of their sense and get involved in these kinds of affairs" and that "We need to be awakened and try to change this culture." This may sound familiar; here is the reason for founding a certain Naver cafe 7 years ago:

Anti English Spectrum cafe manager 'Bba'allyuchi,' who is leading the 'anti' movement by establishing the cafe and making the photos of the lewd party public, explained why he opened the cafe: "It's always just sad that some thoughtless women sympathize with foreigners who they don't realize have approached them with this (sexually demeaning) way of thinking about Korean women." "[This cafe] is a place where people who are worried about this and who want to make an issue of foreigners who demean Korean women as if they are all cheap whores."

Perhaps 'Bba'allyuchi' found a new job? I'm not sure if it's the same producer or not, but the Joongang Daily published a lengthy article titled "The actual reality of interracial relationships" (which asks at one point: "Are white men predators?" Answer: Um, obviously, yes), and offered this choice response:

In response to the outcry from non-Korean viewers over the show, Kim Ji-wan, deputy chief of “Saesangbogi Sisigakgak,” said he couldn’t understand why foreigners were offended.

“We’re receiving a lot of calls [about the show] but I don’t understand what makes them angry. We all think the show is okay,” said Kim in a furious tone during a phone interview the Korea JoongAng Daily. “I watched the show several times and you’ve probably noticed we said ‘some’ foreigners make trouble.

“But why are all these foreigners making a fuss over it? Maybe because they have a guilty conscience,” added Kim.
As well they should, blackening the Han River as they have. Something to keep in mind, of course , is that criticizing MBC means not that MBC did something wrong, but that you did. Perhaps all mixed race couples out there owe MBC an apology for taking out their guilty consciences on such a well-meaning broadcaster.
The show was produced by independent production company All That Media, but the topic and outline for the show were decided and approved by MBC, according to Kim. MBC doesn’t have a plan to apologize to non-Korean viewers of the show.
Will they offer an apology to just the Korean viewers, then?

1 comment:

ZenKimchi said...

It's your research that I point to when people say that the "Shocking Truth" video was not watched by many and is not a big deal. Officials refer to these programs to justify their regulations.

In that long piece that quotes Benjamin Wagner, I found it pretty random that a few paragraphs concentrated on Arirang. I work with Arirang occasionally, and it's first and foremost a government propaganda network for non-Koreans. Most Koreans don't watch Arirang. It's in English. It's for overseas consumption.