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A piece of unsolicited advice to MBC

Any future “Foreigner-Gate”-related statements probably should be made by the station’s PR people, not people connected to the program itself.

I say this because it seems like any time somebody connected with the program opens his or her mouth, it just makes the problem worse. For example:

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.

(Facepalm)

You know what makes this whole, stupid story so bemusing? It could have been handled so easily. A simple, “Sorry you were offended. We didn’t intend to cause offense, and will be more sensitive in the future” would have done, whether you meant it or not. Heck, it’s not like anybody really cared about the segment, anyway.

Instead, you’ve got the lead writer of the show saying, “We only tried to show that there is a difference in culture”; an MBC producer telling the WSJ of all people about “Korean women who are out of their sense and get involved in these kinds of affairs”; and finally this guy. I almost feel the last guy’s pain—I imagine he’s getting lots of nasty calls from both foreigners and perhaps from his superiors, and it’s clear he doesn’t understand why. I’d be pissy, too. But really, dude, “Maybe because they have a guilty conscience?” Jesus. As Matt put it:

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.

Seriously, MBC, sit the program’s people down and tell them to keep their mouths shut any time a journalist calls. They aren’t helping. After you’ve done that, either do the classy thing and issue a statement of regret or something else resembling an apology or shut up and wait the angry foreigners out. Either way is better than what’s happening now.

About the author: Just the administrator of this humble blog.

  • http://www.chiamattt.com chiamattt

    They’re just out of their sense. Things will quiet down soon.

  • http://humesbastard.wordpress.com/ Hume’s Bastard

    It’s important to keep this incident in its proper context, and not to tar all Koreans with the same brush. That said, it’s not good, and I’ve decided I won’t defend Korea or Korean people unconditionally or even with enthusiasm after this and other incidents.

    It’s time at least to consider that South Korea is not a useful ally.

  • cm

    Or perhaps he lost it because a drunk foreigner took his girlfriend?

    Or it could be that he was forced to make that show, ordered by Lee Myung Bak in his attempt to spread government propaganda, as BumfromKorea insists?

  • cm

    #2, you don’t make any sense. You say not to tar all Koreans with one same brush, but then you go right ahead in the next sentence. Interesting.

  • http://rjkoehler.com Robert Koehler

    It’s time at least to consider that South Korea is not a useful ally.

    Going a tad far there, no?

  • http://gypsyscholarship.blogspot.com/ jefferyhodges

    “But why are all these foreigners making a fuss over it? Maybe because they have a guilty conscience.”

    How annoying! I think I’ll go make a fuss over this remark by Kim Ji-wan! Oh. Wait . . .

    Jeffery Hodges

    * * *

  • http://humesbastard.wordpress.com/ Hume’s Bastard

    @#5: No, call a spade, a spade, instead of speaking for a person or an “ally” when they are wrong. Some Koreans might not agree, but condoning bad behavior is as bad as doing it. You can’t help a drunk by coddling him/her!

    @#4: People and institutions. This isn’t just the drunk down the street spouting invective. MBC is no longer government-supported, but gets its funds through foundations. It’s a national media operation that reflects Korean values. That no government official or private officer has the sense to respond to this incident possibly indicates an implicit acceptance of such bigotry. At the least the lack of a response offers that image to the world. This is not the first example of xenophobia that has ever occurred in Korea – why do people insist on being nice? Similar incidents occur in other countries, particularly the US, and no one ever thinks to stop from criticizing. Why should Korea get a pass?

  • gbnhj

    As welcome as the Joongang’s view’s are, even they misrepresent things, although perhaps inadvertently.

    In discussing relative rates of crime, they rightly say that the crime rate for non-Koreans is lower than it is for Koreans. However, in their article they provide the number of all crimes committed by non-Koreans, then provide the number for violent crimes only for Koreans.

    The percentage rate of all crime by non-Koreans is actually lower than the percentage rate of Korean-national violent crime alone. Now, that’s something to report – if only they’d done that. Still, the fact is, regardless of how much safer Korea may or may not be than other countries, you’re still statistically safer from any type of crime committed against you in Korea when you are with non-Koreans than when you’re with Koreans.

  • http://rjkoehler.com Robert Koehler

    Still, the fact is, regardless of how much safer Korea may or may not be than other countries, you’re still statistically safer from any type of crime committed against you in Korea when you are with non-Koreans than when you’re with Koreans.

    I’m not sure if “safer” really applies here:

    http://www.rjkoehler.com/2012/05/17/foreigner-crime-rate-low-but-i-guess-were-more-likely-to-kill-you/

  • brier

    MBC has become a background laugh track these days.

  • gbnhj

    Well, the data provided in your link above (#9) doesn’t fit with the data provided in the link from the Joogang article on this thread. The Chosun article states that violent crimes made up 31% of all crimes by non-Koreans in 2011, so that would be 8,344 (out of 26,915 total crimes by non-Koreans). Yet the Joongang states that ‘crimes…committed by foreigners…went up to 10,164 in 2011, when 1.4 million foreigners were in the country’. From appearances, 8,344 and 10,164 are too far from each other for the reporters to be talking about the same thing, and they’re clearly labelled differently. So, which one to believe – 10,164 or 26,915?

  • http://www.expathell.com thankswww

    Korea is still in the early stages of developing it’s media. Baby steps. Don’t expect too much. It’s bad enough that we can’t get reliable news in English (exceptions being maybe Yonhap and The Donga Ilbo). Don’t expect too much from MBC. The bar is already set at about the level you’d expect a high school newspaper or news broadcast to be (for MBC, maybe middle school). Again, baby steps. The people working at these media outlets didn’t get there because of the quality and integrity of their work (like so many Korean jobs). Check back with them in about 20 years, if they are still around, perhaps they will have advanced to the level of an almost-advanced nation with regards to what is and isn’t shown on TV. Happy stories about foreigners/ethnic minorities don’t sell papers or grab viewers. How some foreigners can even stomach Korean television is beyond my scope of comprehension.

  • http://humesbastard.wordpress.com/ Hume’s Bastard

    @#12: I’ve been here since 1997. The “baby” is in high school. Anyone else have another cute, condescending metaphor for “coddling the bigot”?

    I’d like to remind neocons, too, that allies don’t have to be friends and like one another. They just have to be useful to one another. Moronic and odious regimes are not useful. On the same token, enemies also come in handy. Just ask Israel about Syria and the Golan Heights and Egypt and the Sinai. Enough blood and treasure has been spent on Korea, it’s clear it’s a dead loss for the US.

  • http://populargusts.blogspot.com/ bulgasari

    Thanks for the link, Robert.

    @11
    I don’t know about about 2011, but according to Supreme Prosecutor’s Office stats that I have, there were 33,586 charges leveled at foreigners in 2010. The problem is that SPO, MOJ, and KNP stats can differ, and I also think you get different stats when you list number of charges vs number of people charged. At any rate, 10,164 seems far too low in comparison.

    Btw, if you want a breakdown of Korean crimes, the SPO has huge reports from the last 1o or so years available here:
    http://spo.go.kr/spo/info/stats/stats02.jsp

  • http://geoju.kr fanwarrior

    I think at this point that anyone who was upset at the original video could go ahead and contact the police and have him charged with defamation. He’s basically just implied that anyone upset with the video is possibly upset because they stole money from a Korean woman, or gave her HIV. He gets hit with a few dozen of those and his grand kids will be paying out blood money.

  • http://rjkoehler.com Robert Koehler

    I think at this point that anyone who was upset at the original video could go ahead and contact the police and have him charged with defamation.

    I’ll say this—it comes pretty damn close to defamation, if not in law than certainly in spirit.

  • gbnhj

    Thanks for the heads-up, bulgasari.

  • slim

    The journalism schools and communication programs of major and minor US universities are well-populated with ambitious young South Korean students, yet somehow any professionalism transmitted there never makes it back to the motherland, where the media is at best, only marginally better than unfree China’s. Where do these students go?

  • congee

    @ slim,

    Hmm, well, maybe that training in the US is part of the problem. I mean, come on, CNN, Fox, even the standard of the reporting at the NYT is questionable these days.

  • slim

    I’d say even Fox stands up well against MBC and the like.

  • bumfromkorea

    Or it could be that he was forced to make that show, ordered by Lee Myung Bak in his attempt to spread government propaganda, as BumfromKorea insists?

    Yes. This is exactly what I was saying. Thank you for putting those words in my mouth.

    I guess when facts go completely counter to the point you want to make, strawman is the way to go!

    @Hume

    People and institutions. This isn’t just the drunk down the street spouting invective. MBC is no longer government-supported, but gets its funds through foundations. It’s a national media operation that reflects Korean values

    This is not true. 70% of MBC’s not-at-all publicly traded stocks are owned by Foundation for Broadcast Culture, whose board members are appointed by the KCC – a government organization (much like the FCC) within the executive branch.

    After the beef protest, the current administration appointed Kim Jae Chul, the current president of MBC and the one that the MBC strikers are protesting against for letting the Lee administration have undue control over the journalistic contents of what MBC broadcasts.

    When this racist piece was made, the journalists were on strike. MBC management relied on an outside company to make the crap – as they’ve been doing on almost all other aspects of their programming for the past 6 months.

  • slim

    Bum is correct, but I see him driving home a distinction without a difference because MBC sucked before the strike, too.

  • http://humesbastard.wordpress.com/ Hume’s Bastard

    @#21: It doesn’t matter if the piece was done by a contractor. MBC made the decision to air it, not the company.

  • http://humesbastard.wordpress.com/ Hume’s Bastard

    And, as for the distinction without a difference, I think funding by multiple foundations reflects even less favorably when considering the issue of what values influential South Koreans espouse.

  • cm

    BUM, stop defending an undefensible. I can show you clips from MBC, long before your alleged government takeover of show productions. These things have been a habitual problem for this station from day one. Now stop bringing in the government, your charges of censorship was a non factor in the decision that the station made on the documentary.

    If anything, I rather see the government pushing hard for multiculturalism. Look at how many shows are run by government controlled KBS channels, showing mostly positive sides of multiculturalism, and why is it that they seem to be far less controversial in the public eye?

  • slim

    There’s always the “News of the World” solution. Just kill it off.

  • jk6411

    “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 with the Korea JoongAng Daily.

    Maybe he was pissed off b/c it was JoongAng Ilbo grilling him?

  • http://askakorean.blogspot.com thekorean

    The journalism schools and communication programs of major and minor US universities are well-populated with ambitious young South Korean students, yet somehow any professionalism transmitted there never makes it back to the motherland, where the media is at best, only marginally better than unfree China’s. Where do these students go?

    Right now, they are striking, trying to restore freedom of press in Korea.

  • Sonagi

    That said, it’s not good, and I’ve decided I won’t defend Korea or Korean people unconditionally or even with enthusiasm after this and other incidents.

    So you used to defend Korea or Korean people unconditionally before, and now you’ve changed your mind because of a salacious, race-baiting program?

  • http://populargusts.blogspot.com/ bulgasari

    @25,
    Beyond helping to generate the hysteria surrounding mad cow disease which fueled months of anti-government protests in 2008 (which was built around several xenophobic/anti American tropes), PD Sucheop also did a report on the 2002 tank accident (happy 10th anniversary), which prompted a netizen named Angma to come up with the idea of holding candlelight protests at Gwanghwamun. His messages were publicized by Kim Gi-boh, an activist and Ohmynews citizen reporter, who was later found to have a sock puppet named Angma…

    At any rate, MBC has some responsibility for setting off two sets of anti American protests.

  • http://www.xanga.com/wangkon936 WangKon936

    Good lord Hume. You gonna end an alliance based on what the “Geraldo” of Korea is saying?

  • slim

    The record strongly suggests that it is impossible to discern any quality difference between MBC on-strike or MBC pre-strike. They are united in their suckitude. These clueless denials are just icing on the cake.

  • cm

    “The record strongly suggests that it is impossible to discern any quality difference between MBC on-strike or MBC pre-strike.”

    Because there are none. A point the “democracy freedom fighters” can’t get it through their thick heads. If anything, it’s they, who are worse than anybody when it comes to peddling xenophobia.

  • http://pawikoreapics.blogspot.com/ pawikirogii 石鵝

    just wanna say mbc makes some wonderful ‘saguk’! second to none!

  • PineForest

    Reason #77 why I’m really glad I don’t live in Korea anymore.

  • http://humesbastard.wordpress.com/ Hume’s Bastard

    @#29 & #31: At the first, I had no choice but to accept the alliance, because I was a soldier serving in Korea. Since my discharge, I have steadily grown more skeptical as I have had more contact with Korean society. The original operational goals of the alliance were to create a Korean proxy state in the region and to defend the integrity of the United Nations, as well as to facilitate the defense of Japan, the strategic purpose overall. The sentiments expressed by South Koreans or American interests do not reflect these limiting goals, but the increasingly corrupting influence through the decades of South Korean corporations through lobbyists in the American government. As a teacher here, also, the thought, that the US or anyone would emulate South Korean educational practices sends shivers down my spine, too. Americans also favor removing the troops from the peninsula, a policy I would support. It behooves Americans, as they seek equitably and fairly to trim the fat of decades of excess, to ask what works and what gives the US an advantage. The alternative is a sudden loss of influence that will cause this alliance to unravel, because it is just not necessary. South Korean lobbyists cannot compete in the scramble that would result when budgetary pressures force reforms. What this latest incident and many others in the last decade I have been here does is tear this emotional veil off this relationship, and I hope allows for clearer thinking.

  • http://rjkoehler.com Robert Koehler

    Happy stories about foreigners/ethnic minorities don’t sell papers or grab viewers.

    There are plenty of happy stories about foreigners in the media, and most get more eyeballs that the MBC hit piece. Heck, my wife and I get lots of requests from various human interest programs. It’s just when those programs get shown, they don’t make it to expat blogs.

  • http://www.xanga.com/wangkon936 WangKon936

    Hume,

    Ah, I see. It appears that you have been harboring these thoughts for quite a while. This MBC special just made you express it. Doesn’t seem as if it was a tipping point experience.

    It may be useful to separate the alliance from stationing troops. The two are not the same thing. You can still have an alliance without necessarily having troops stationed there, correct? Why throw the baby out with the bathwater?

  • Yu Bum Suk

    “It’s just when those programs get shown, they don’t make it to expat blogs.”

    Very true. At times I find a few of them border on gratuitous curiosity, but then the subjects have the option of saying ‘no thanks’. I would never had seen the MBC piece had it not flooded the expat blogosphere, but I’ve stumbled across dozens of documentaries on the mundane existances of apparently fascinating waegook residents.

  • bibimbong

    As a teacher here, also, the thought, that the US or anyone would emulate South Korean educational practices sends shivers down my spine

    ain’t it the truth. Duncan & Obama are out of their depths on this issue.
    http://www.huffingtonpost.com/mobileweb/leonie-haimson/obama-and-duncan-on-south-korea_b_845916.html

  • http://humesbastard.wordpress.com/ Hume’s Bastard

    @#38:

    I’m no isolationist or pacifist. I want the US military to maintain some sort of forward deployment. But, on the lines of what Stephen Walt has argued, the US needs to stop thinking in terms of bilateral treaties, and instead choose functions that are essential. I would suggest that the Military services concentrate on sea lanes and airspace. I know that would affect the Army, but it would also save money on overseas basing. And, as I have always argued, it’s more important for Japan and Korea (and anyone else that wants to join) to become allies, than it is for the US to be allies with either. Ideally, I would love to see a Taiwan-Japan-ROK alliance, with India as an added bonus. The US needs to start thinking about value and stop getting soiled with local issues. It’s no longer America’s responsibility to build democracies or coddle local douchebags.

    I also wanted to add in the little sketch above, Kim Gu was a missed opportunity. I’m still waiting for a estimable Korean leader anywhere on the peninsula.

    @#40: Thanks for the confirmation! Everyday I hope and search for a reprieve from university work in the form of any non-Korean job, and I am thankful I am not a Korean employee.

  • http://www.gordsellar.com gordsellar

    @37 (Robert),

    There are plenty of happy stories about foreigners in the media, and most get more eyeballs that the MBC hit piece. Heck, my wife and I get lots of requests from various human interest programs. It’s just when those programs get shown, they don’t make it to expat blogs.

    Ever say yes? I find myself weirdly, and only momentarily, curious about the possibility of seeing a clip of our very own Marmot on Youtube (or wherever), wandering around some historical site in Seoul with his enviable DSLR, or chowing down with his wife in some little restaurant somewhere, or whatever.

  • hardyandtiny

    Personally I don’t put up with this type of shit.

  • YangachiBastardo

    Ever say yes? I find myself weirdly, and only momentarily, curious about the possibility of seeing a clip of our very own Marmot on Youtube (or wherever), wandering around some historical site in Seoul with his enviable DSLR, or chowing down with his wife in some little restaurant somewhere, or whatever

    Considering the level of aggression and sheer hatred among us, i can’t blame our esteemed host for keeping his family out of all this

  • http://rjkoehler.com Robert Koehler

    Ever say yes? I find myself weirdly, and only momentarily, curious about the possibility of seeing a clip of our very own Marmot on Youtube (or wherever), wandering around some historical site in Seoul with his enviable DSLR, or chowing down with his wife in some little restaurant somewhere, or whatever.

    Nope. Besides the whole “face for radio” factor, I’m afraid my life would be quite disappointing to the viewer—Get up in the morning, go to work, write a lot, go home, watch “The Wire” with the wife, go to sleep. Next morning, repeat. No struggles against racial discrimination, no tensions with Korean parents-in-law. Not exactly compelling TV.

  • cm

    Most of the time, that’s what they’re looking for, #45.

  • madar

    My Mrs finally just watched the offending 시시각각, and her take on it was that they were clearly talking about isolated cases. It has now made me wonder if the English translation if overly biased. (Although, she generally likes 시시각각 so perhaps she is partisan. Any other fluent Korean speakers want to weigh in on this?)

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