Every once in awhile, a piece of journalism comes along that can instantly divide and enrage readers. Often, such controversial journalism is as much to do with how the piece is written and presented as the subject matter itself. The latest news to shock and raise the hackles of many around the globe is a report from MBC’s 시시각각 TV Show. Originally broadcast in South Korea last week, the report titled “The Shocking Reality about Relationships with Foreigners” sparked outrage and had netizens all around the world up in arms. Watch the video below to see what all the controversy is about.
Read on for the MASSIVE analysis…..
Foreigners living in Korea, and people around the world alike, have been outraged by this video and within hours of the report airing, a FaceBook group was created, gaining thousands of members in just a few days, to protest against the report. Since its airing, Busan Haps, a paper which reports on news in and around Busan, contacted MBC about this report. MBC has since stated that the documentary was outsourced and not produced in-house (source).
Although the subject matter of the report is obviously controversial, another issue that should be scrutinised is the way the report itself was edited and presented. MBC, as a world class broadcasting company, should pride itself in transmitting top-standard news. However, this report leaves much to be desired in terms of quality and good reporting.
The video opens with an American claiming he has no trouble trying to meet women in Korea – cue dramatic music and cut to woman sitting in a chair, which could easily be mistaken as a wheelchair, looking helpless and vulnerable, stating she got pregnant. In case that wasn’t shocking enough, in comes another headless person saying someone tested positive for HIV. The premises, style and angle that this report is going to take is pretty much established within the first 15 seconds of the video. The title of the report is “The Shocking Reality about Relationships with Foreigners” and in case this wasn’t dramatic enough, the title is written in the style of a horror movie with ghostly font and blood red background. This video was obviously going to take a very biased approached to this sensitive subject matter from the get go.
As the report continues, we hear stories from foreigners about their experiences with Korean women, and the report makes it appear that Korean women aren’t completely innocent either; they’re not exactly entering these relations unwillingly. But what makes Korean women open their minds so easily to foreign men? We go to our academic source for some seemingly substantial and intellectual theories. Dr. Junsung Park, Professor of Psychological Rehabilitation at Korea Nazarene University, states that dating foreigners is a rarity so Korean women feel it’s important to develop a relationship with foreign men, rapidly…We’re not quite sure what he means, but this could be a simple case of curiosity for Korean women? And so we go back to the foreigners.
One foreigner is quoted saying “I’m open minded so… I’ve never slept with a Korean before. I’ll be going to the clubs later and I’m going to get one later.” This video is quite heavily edited so we may not be getting the full speech, especially as the audio has also been greatly manipulated. But just to further reinforce this kind of nonchalant attitude towards sex from foreigners, in comes a Korean girl to give her side of the story, expressing the innocence of Korean women who are merely meeting foreign men to learn English, but of course, foreign men meet Korean women for a different purpose. But are they really that innocent? The report then states that those Korean women who are interested in foreign men are actually trying to date foreign men more frequently, which is causing these foreign men to develop a bad opinion and make bad comments about Korean women. We’re not sure if it’s a translation issue, but the train of thoughts seem to be getting a bit incoherent – are they contradicting themselves, or simply trying to seem unbiased by passing a small portion of the blame onto these Korean women?
We have been putting up with some rather crafty editing and ambiguously suggestive shots but this is when the editing of ‘facts’ and background images get really appalling.
The above image is an example of how arbitrary wording and images are being edited together to try and suggest something that wasn’t necessarily true. Looking at the picture above, the script is talking about how “some foreign men make bad comments about Korean women” but the background image is of what looks like an injured woman. As the report continues, there is no explanation as to why the image of the woman appeared, nor was there any news of foreign men being violent towards Korean women. So what is the relation between these two things exactly? The image and the wording combined is extremely provocative and can lead the viewer to involuntarily make assumptions without the presence of evidence. This is just one example of where, in this piece, backless claims are put alongside inflammatory and sensationalist images to reinforce ideas with no backing, and to simply enhance this supposedly immoral image of foreigners. Similarly to this, there is ridiculously over dramatic music in the background throughout the video, making it seem like some sort of melodrama!
Another problem with this report is the use of people as the only sources of information. Both foreign and Korean people are interviewed through abstract videos with altered voice overs to provide complete anonymity. However, no mention is given to how legitimate these sources actually are, and the videos have been so manipulated that it’s difficult to establish whether the footage is reliable or not.
The man in the picture above is interviewed near the end of the report and he seems to get a lot of Korean women who are victims of foreign men confiding in him. Understandably, a source wouldn’t give their name or have their face shown, but usually some credentials should be given about the source, for instance how they came across the relevant information. However, it is never revealed how this person knows so much about foreign men and their antics; running off with women’s money, leaving the women pregnant, spreading STDs and so on. For all the viewer knows, these claims could have been fabricated.
The report in general also favours tabloid journalism over hard facts and figures to back up claims. For example, a member of the production teams rings a supposed female victim. When questioned if they have been a victim of a foreigner, the “victim” says they have no idea what the production team is talking about. The production crew member doesn’t accept this and the call is abruptly edited, cut and Mr. Voice over insists that the woman is just not admitting to the truth. The phone call was extremely flukey, they did not state how they got the phone numbers of these “victims” or what they were a victim of exactly, let alone any evidence of their suffering; for all we know, it could just have been a wrong number.
It’s such unprofessionalism that makes this whole report appear amateur. It’s as though whoever made this is clutching at straws in an attempt to create drama where there is none.
The use of language is also another point that should be looked at. Admittedly, we’re basing this off translations, and can’t be sure whether the significance of the words used is the same in Korean. However, it was something that really struck us. Even as beginners of Korean, we could hear the word victim /피해 mentioned a lot. Using a word such as victim is very loaded. Saying Korean women are ‘victims’ of foreign men is sensationalism as it immediately conjures up images of criminality. As there is no proof of an actual crime occurring, using such severe language without actual evidence is misleading and sensationalist.
The report states that most of the foreigners who were dating these Korean female victims disappeared without a trace directly after the event, so Korean females have to deal with all the damages and remaining loss. What’s absent from this report is what exactly are these damages. Apart from the three extreme cases highlighted in this report, we’re sure a vast majority of these mixed relationships do not end in loss of money, pregnancy and HIV. This report seems to assume that all Korean women are weak and naive, when we’re pretty sure that most of these women know what they are doing and this seemingly contradicts what was mentioned earlier when the academic correspondence stated that women WANT to date foreign men and they want to do it frequently and rapidly. What this report also lacks to acknowledge is at the end of the day, most of these foreigners are tourists; leaving the country was imminent and we’re sure both parties were always aware this was the case.
Dr. Junsung Park comes back and says we should think critically about foreigners and keep thinking about the problem, but what exactly is the problem here and what basis is there for Korea to think critically of foreigners? We are not saying either side is in the right or wrong. There is no smoke without fire, but the lack of evidence and actual proof in this report means it lacks any credibility whatsoever. This video has resulted in a lot of heated debates on the internet, but if we look beyond the manipulative editing, this report does highlight an issue in Korea, which is how better sex education should be provided as condoms could have solved 66% of the pivotal problems that this report is concerned with.
Even if MBC had outsourced this report, it is still their responsibility as they chose to broadcast it. MBC, being such a famous and respected network, should have realised that such quality of journalism was laughable at best and truly insulting and provocative at worst. Disregarding what the report was trying to condemn, this sort of shoddy editing and reporting shouldn’t have been allowed to be released to the public. If whoever had made this had taken the time to think carefully about the research and angle they would take, some legitimate and interesting points could have been made. We realise that such journalism isn’t limited to South Korea though. In the UK too, it’s not uncommon to see shabby and unprofessional pieces that are made to intentionally stir up emotions and play on peoples’ fears over stating facts that can be backed and reasonable arguments given. We can often see terribly written articles in our country that rely on shocking and scaring people, and such tactics are widely used all over the world. It’s just a shame that this kind of piece was seen on such an influential and famous network as MBC. We hope that in the future that journalism can help bring people together, rather than further divide people.