The South Korean broadcast channel MBC is receiving intense backlash after its use of inappropriate pictures during the opening ceremony of the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020 (being celebrated in 2021 after being postponed due to the outbreak of COVID-19 around the globe).
While introducing the athletes participating, MBC displayed a series of pictures — assumed to be related to the countries they represent. For example, when introducing the Norwegian athletes, MBC displayed a series of pictures showing the map of Norway, the Lofoten archipelago, the sport of cross-country skiing, and the arctic salmon.
The criticism sparked when MBC aired a picture of Chernobyl for Ukraine…
… and continued to intensify as the channel continued to air a picture of bitcoin for El Salvador…
… and a picture of the ongoing protests for Haiti.
In addition to the inappropriate pictures, MBC also included short phrases which have since been deemed insensitive by the viewers. These blurbs about the nations included not only political struggles, but also seemingly unrelated and incorrect information like the GDP and the COVID-19 vaccination percentages.
The Republic of Marshall Islands
Consists of 1,200+ islands
Once a nuclear test site for the US
COVID-19 Vaccination Status: 28.9%
One netizen called out, “What is the reason MBC is highlighting these countries’ political struggles when the Olympics is supposed to be all about bringing the world together in sportsmanship and working toward world peace?”
Sweden: said it was the “developed country of welfare” but made a typo in “developed country” (선진국) and wrote “선지국” which is cow blood soup, a Korean delicacy.
One more thing: MBC also indicated the GDP and vaccination rate for each country, leaving netizens baffled. pic.twitter.com/1V3XhVBU0u
— Raphael Rashid (@koryodynasty) July 23, 2021
As the realtime broadcast fueled the online heat, MBC included a brief apology at the end of the coverage. The reporters apologized to the viewers and to the nations that they have offended, on behalf of the channel.
In today’s coverage of the Opening Ceremony, we used inappropriate images to introduce the athletes representing countries like Ukraine and Haiti. We also used inappropriate captions to highlight some of the other countries. We apologize to the viewers and the people of Ukraine and other countries.
Despite the apology, MBC continues to receive both national and international criticism. In Korea, a Blue House petition has been created to demand action against MBC’s executives who approved the atrocities to air.
- “Whoever produced those and approved those should both be fired.”
- “The executives should take responsibility for this.”
- “Apologize in English via your official platforms. Apologizing in Korean won’t work since the offended viewers from those countries won’t understand.”
- “Have they seriously lost it or what?!”
- “Is this for real… Like, wow. This apology couldn’t be more disingenuous.”
- “I don’t think a brief apology is going to be enough for what they have done.”
MBC is yet to respond to the criticism following the apology.