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Hurting others hurts us

July 28,2017
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Kim Jeong-hyeon, 43, became a Muslim after graduating from college and has been religious for over 20 years. Recently, he was appalled by the drama “The Man Who Dies to Live” on MBC, which made fun of Muslim women wearing bikinis and hijab and drinking alcohol, which is forbidden in Islam.

Foreign Muslims who watched the drama online were also furious. “This is a sort of blasphemy, and the Islamic community is displeased and angry. It is a betrayal for many Muslims who have grown familiar with Korean culture through K-pop.”

We’ve seen this kind of controversy before.

This is not the first time that Korean drama and variety shows revealed ignorance and racial bias towards other cultures. In 2014, “Gag Concert” on KBS was criticized for having a character named “Mueumhadad,” a satirical character based on the Islamic prophet Muhammad. In April, comedienne Hong Hyun-hee appeared in blackface as part of a comedy sketch — a senselessly offensive and depraved act.

When the borders in pop culture have disappeared, the continued production of outdated content leads to controversy and problems.

Some say that dramas are dramas, comedies are comedies, and as long as they are funny and entertaining, it shouldn’t matter.

But do Koreans feel the same towards a Brazilian television personality who recently insulted a Korean pop group? He pulled back the corners of his eyes to make them appear narrow and said, “If you marry them, your eyes will get slanted as well.” It is contradictory to get upset over derogatory acts against Asians in Western culture while ignoring our own biases against other cultures.

According to the Korea Muslim Federation, there are 140,000 Muslims in Korea, including 35,000 Korean Muslims. Korea is already a country with various religions and diverse values. Respect for cultural differences benefits us all. Broadcasters are concerned that this may hinder Korean pop culture’s expansion in the Islamic world, but what is of more concern is irresponsible entertainment.

Kim said, “What is the meaning of television shows when they hurt people’s feelings instead of offering fun and entertainment? We must keep in mind that hurting others may end up hurting us in the end, as well.”

JoongAng Ilbo, July 26, Page 29

*The author is a cultural news reporter of the JoongAng Ilbo.

NOH JIN-HO