Girl group NewJeans faced malicious comments from Chinese netizens in the controversy over their promotion of Hanji.
NewJeans appeared in a promotional video promoting the excellence of Hanji (traditional Korean paper handmade from mulberry trees). However, Chinese netizens claimed that Hanji’s origin was China and insisted on “cultural appropriation“. Contrary to NewJeans’ intention when appearing in the video, they became the target of malicious comments.
NewJeans recently appeared in a promotional video for the “2022 Korean Wave-linked Collaborative Content Planning and Development Support” project planned by the Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism and the Korea Craft & Design Foundation.
In this video, NewJeans members talked about the history, durability and function of Hanji. They also had time to make Hanji themselves with Ahn Chi Yong, head of the National Intangible Cultural Heritage Association.
This video mainly introduced Hanji. Some Chinese people focused elsewhere. In fact, they expressed displeasure on NewJeans’ official SNS account by saying, “China is the first country to make paper.”
One netizen left a politically sensitive comment, “When Wang Xizhi (a Chinese calligrapher, politician, general and writer during the Jin dynasty) was alive, your pao cai people didn’t even exist.” Pao cai is the Chinese term for kimchi. They caused conflict by claiming that kimchi is a Chinese culture.
Negative comments toward NewJeans are actually part of the Northeast Project. Northeast Project refers to China’s project to restore historical facts and raise awareness of China’s culture. Paper originated in China, but Hanji is another culture developed from it. China did not recognize the culture of other countries and insisted that everything in history started in China.
The ban on Korean culture in China is being lifted little by little. Cultural exchanges, which have been closed for the past few years, are gradually restored. Everyone seems to welcome this open move of China, a major market for the cultural industry.
However, due to this incident, Korean netizens’ negative perceptions of China are expected to continue. The arrogant attitude of Chinese and pro-Chinese celebrities in Korea is the reasons.
Singer Henry agreed with Chinese political ideology. He supported “One China” and also appeared in the Chinese entertainment show “Street Dance of China Season 4” to promote the Northeast Project. This has caused him to be restricted from engaging in free entertainment activities in Korea.
The same goes for Chinese idols who used to be active in Korea. Former EXO members Kris, Luhan, Tao, former f(x) member Victoria, etc. headed back to China after gaining huge recognition through their idol activities in Korea. As the ransom increases, activities in China make greater profits. The controversies occurring in the process of them leaving Korea don’t matter to Chinese people. That’s why they didn’t hesitate to file lawsuits against their own agency and violate the contract.
These events left a bad reputation for current Chinese celebrities in Korea. This is why Korean netizens raise suspicions first whenever a Chinese name appears in K-pop. Opinions and positions of K-pop officials are inconsistent. They don’t trust China but know that China is an inseparable huge market.
It was a promotion for Hanji, but what people are discussing is “the origin of paper”. This shows no respect for the celebrities that appear in the promotional content, and NewJeans eventually becomes the victim of China’s stubbornness.