Recently tvN’s SNL Korea did a sketch that aired Dec. 31st depicting three women imitating the Dream Girls.
No harm, right?
Until you realize that they thought it was necessary to do it in blackface.[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=75MsuOUIDtI&w=560&h=315]
With a country so intent on pushing its culture out to the masses you would think instances like this would be a thing of the past. I mean, I don’t get it. Is it really possible that Korean broadcasting stations haven’t gotten any kind of backlash from this in the past, or are they just intentionally turning a blind eye? My vote would be for the latter. If internationals fans can learn to respect and be sensitive towards Korean culture while consuming it, why can’t K-broadcasting stations and Korean culture in general be the same way? Just about all of K-pop and a very heavy dose of K-entertainment is the imitation of other foreign cultures. Case in point, SNL Korea. Last time I checked South Korea is one of the highest educated (if not the highest) countries in the world. I understand that the implication for these events are said to stem from homage to African/African-American culture but when I hear things like “Group BEAST’s member Lee Kikwang transforms into an African-American, causing laughter” I get the feeling that the word homage is only used as a cover up. Maybe, just maybe things like this are done to honor African/African-American culture but let’s be honest, that’s not what it came across as. If I remember correctly, none of the Dream Girls performed in braids/dreadlocks. What about turning into or depicting another race is funny? Why should someone else’s race be reduced to a mockery, and in this case, purely on the intent of entertainment value?
I understand that racial insensitivity is not something that’s new under the Korean sun, but it’s about high time the country does something to stop things like this from happening again, especially on a nationally televised TV show. I refuse to treat Korea as a country that needs to be dragged around like a child and taught right from wrong. Thousands of years of its own conflict with other countries and cultural degradation should have been enough time to understand that belittling another culture is wrong. I understand homage and jokes but to reduce a culture by the painting of one’s skin is going a bit too far. Homage can be paid in numerous other ways. Even if others continue to argue it is in reverence, I’ll argue that it is not. In the blackface Korean skits I’ve come across (Bubble Sisters, Boom, Shindong, KiKwang, Jung Juri, etc) and other culturally offensive skits (Star King Muslim terrorists act), it always seems to come from the point of making the audience laugh. How is that showing reverence? Some people may chalk this up to cultural division and say it’s not seen as offensive in Korea, but when the tables were turned and two Morning Musume members proceeded in taking offensive pictures mocking the shape of Korean people’s eyes all hell broke loose. This is selective social indignation at its finest. As cliché as this may sound, this is when the golden rule should come into effect: if you don’t want something like this to happen to you, make sure you don’t do it to others.
Another thing that irks me is that some big international sites and just about all Korean based sites will never make mention of this ever happening. They will just go about sweeping it under the rug as if to say that events like these are too insignificant to pay any mind to. But their silence is what will continue to allow instances like this to repeat in the future. Imagine if these sites made an uproar over this issue. Do you think things like this would happen as frequently? Probably not.
Maybe some international fans might seem like we are on a “high horse” when pointing out such things, but I feel we have an obligation as a human beings to be respectful and sensitive of others culture. Yes, it might seem like a lost cause to point these things out to a homogenous society, but only when action is taken can change be expected. What can be done to stop it? Well maybe nothing, but there’s no harm in trying. I encourage people to respond here and here to let SNL Korea know what you really think about their cultural insensitivity.