Recently, the streaming service market has begun to expand, and people living in other countries can easily access Korean movies and dramas. Based on these changes, Korean content is receiving significant attention from all around the world. Netflix's original series Kingdom and Squid Game have been warmly received due to their excellent scripts and visual beauty. However, there were various reactions from people who encountered Korean content, and one such reaction is the criticism of xenophobia. Xenophobia is a combination of “Xeno”, which means stranger, and “Phobic”, which means dislike. Xenophobia refers to a phenomenon where people express antipathy toward foreigners without any clear reason. There is still a tendency in Korea for people to lack awareness of racism, such as imitating foreigners' tones or thinking that blackening their skin is a kind of comedy. On the other hand, overseas residents who are sensitive to racism criticize these scenes which often appear in dramas. So Pharos is going to introduce some problematic scenes in dramas for people who are not aware of racial discrimination and explain what problems they present.
The Netflix original drama “Suriname” is based on a real story in a country called Suriname, which is located in northern South America. Kang In-gu, the main character who is devoted to his family, was deceived by a drug trafficker in Suriname and falsely arrested. He cooperates with NIS to clear up the mistake. In the plot, Suriname is described as a dangerous country where drug trafficking is rampant. In particular, scenes of government corruption appear repeatedly. Perhaps because of this plot, Suriname's foreign minister, Albert Ramdin, said he would consider legal action against the production company. He said his government would also convey their protest to the South Korean government. He said that the image of Suriname in the drama distorts the national identity, and whether the content of “Suriname” is true or not, it is creating a negative image for people watching this drama. The situation of Korean residents living in Suriname has also become uncomfortable due to these issues. Rumors spread that South Koreans belittle Suriname, raising concerns that negative feelings may be expressed to Korean residents. Although the Suriname government has yet to officially express its protest, the production team needs to listen more to the views of “Suriname”.
A similar case to “Suriname” is the case of “Crime City 2”. This movie is mainly set in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam, but it was banned from screening in Vietnam. Authorities said it is because there were many violent scenes in the movie, but some analysts say the real reason is because the movie portrays Ho Chi Minh City in a negative light. In the movie, Ho Chi Minh City is depicted as a lawless area where criminals do not hesitate to kidnap and kill tourists. In addition, there was a line criticizing Vietnamese police as being unable to protect people.
A third example of xenophobia is found in “Squid Game”, which was an international sensation last year and won six Emmy Awards. It features a character named Ali. Ali is a Pakistani migrant worker who worked dangerous jobs to earn money and his Korean boss owes him overdue wages. People criticized the depiction of this character. First, they claim that it was inappropriate to use an Indian actor for the Pakistani role. India and Pakistan are still engaged in an intense territorial dispute over Kashmir. Therefore the actor's nationality is a sensitive issue for the Pakistani people. Second, there was a comment from Pakistani SNS users that Ali's immature appearance felt racist. Ali is such a decisive character that he made difficult choices to take responsibility for his family. However, viewers said that he acted as if he lacked intelligence and it came off as racist directing that did not fit the setting.
If a movie titled Korea made in another country had portrayed Korea as a lawless country where drugs and crimes are prevalent, how would Koreans have reacted to it? Wouldn't Koreans point out the racist elements too? The cause of xenophobia is prejudice caused by fear of strangers and absence of contact. Cultural discrimination includes portraying foreigners as excessively violent, homeless, and criminals in media like dramas. The Korean media content market is no longer a small industry consumed only within Korea. The greater the consumer's attention to Korean creations, the greater the creator's responsibility. If we want the Korean Wave to continue for a long time, we need to approach and respect other cultures carefully as a member of the international community. A world-famous work cannot avoid criticism. Otherwise, the Korean Wave will end as a short-term trend. In order to continue to produce high-quality content in the future, it is necessary to have critical thinking suitable for the international era.
76th Reporter • KIM HYEON A • email@example.com
78th Reporter • Lee Hyeon Seo • firstname.lastname@example.org