Various nations have been speaking up about K-dramas including insulting details about them.
Alongside Kpop, K-dramas are also a spearheader in spreading the Korean Wave to a worldwide scale. With the support of streaming platforms such as Disney+ and Netflix, K-dramas are attracting a huge number of worldwide audiences.
However, with its global conquest, K-dramas also have to be careful to avoid insulting other nations’ people or culture, as news spreads fast in this day and age, and several K-dramas have been heavily criticized for such an action.
According to the media outlet KoreaTimes, it’s time for Korean producers to pay attention to culturally and historically sensitive contents, especially after “Little Women” was deleted from Vietnam due to historical inaccuracies, and “Narco-Saints” invoked a lawsuit from the government of Suriname themselves. If “Little Women” brought up the Vietnam war and “glorified” Korea’s war crimes in Vietnam, then “Narco-Saints” described Suriname as a “drug heaven”, heavily insulting both nations.
And this trend is not limited to “Little Women” or “Nacro-Saints”, as various other K-dramas also painted other nations in a bad image. In the Korean version of “Money Heist”, a detail never seen before in the original Spanish version was added, when a character “Tokyo” explained about their name, saying, “That’s because I will do bad things”, leading to negative reactions from Japanese audiences.
Last year, the K-drama “Racket Boys” also enraged Indonesian people for describing the nation as cheaters that have no sportsmanship, and accused the nation of mistreating Korea’s badminton team. Similarly, controversial details related to other nations can be found in “Penthouse: War in Life” and “Vincenzo”.
After these controversies, Korean producers, in the case of “Little Women” and “Racket Boys” only issued generic apologies and promises to “be more careful next time”. However, for “Nacro-Saints”, the producer has endangered a whole community of Koreans living in Suriname, and the diplomatic relationship between the two countries also suffered. They can claim that they did not mean to offend anyone and that people may have different perspectives, but the negative effects caused by “Nacro-Saints” are simply irredeemable.
Regarding “Little Women” and “Nacro-Saints”, Yun Seok Jin, a critic and professor at Chungnam University in Korea said, “The real issue lies in the disrespect towards other people and nations. I wonder if it is really necessary to name a series about drugs ‘Suriname’, and if the producers will dare to do the same with a bigger nation?.. Meanwhile, “Little Women” is an unfortunate case where the screenwriter did not consider things through when describing the Vietnam war. Not to mention, the scenes mentioning Vietnam aren’t exactly necessary.”
Meanwhile, pop culture critic Jung Duk Hyun emphasized that the lack of understanding and knowledge of “Little Women” is something that should be criticized.
“Vietnamese audiences consume a lot of Korean cultural contents and K-dramas are also hugely popular there. The producer may not have been aware of the harsh response there, but they shouldn’t try to make light of their mistake and explain it. Instead, they need to take responsibility and improve their knowledge,” he said.
Other Korean critics also agree that to expand further the cultural power of Korea, particularly of the drama and film industry, there needs to be an authority that monitors and reviews contents right from the beginning of production, in order to minimize mistakes. “In this era of the Internet and streaming platforms, Korean content creators need to have a higher cultural awareness”, Yun Seok Jin said.
The transgressions made by “Little Women” and “Nacro-Saints” will be an obstacle for the growing Korean wave, and open up windows for criticisms, anger, and even conflict. Inaccurate portrayals of other nations and cultures are signs of extreme carelessness that may invoke hostility towards other Korean content. In fact, with regards to the aforementioned issue, netizens on forums like Allkpop have also expressed, “Some Korean content creators may be considered arrogant, leading to extreme reactions and negative influences on the Korean wave as a whole.”