BBC News recently generated online criticisms for its apparent “othering” of a beloved Korean dish in a featurette video.
Published on April 25, the clip featured kimchi with the title: “What makes kimchi taste so odd?”
The theme was also echoed in the headline that said, “The secrets behind kimchi’s strange taste.”
On Twitter, netizens were quick to point out how describing the traditional Korean dish as “weird” and “strange” is insensitive.
James Beard Award-winning writer Cathy Erway noted the negative connotations of the terms used in a tweet.
Word choices like this might seem small and insignificant. But, incidentally, that’s exactly how this @BBCNews headline might make readers who don’t view kimchi as “odd” feel. (Also, I read “odd” & “strange” in the context of food & flavors w a negative tinge. Just me?) pic.twitter.com/n4ihvOiGrb
— Cathy Erway (@cathyerway) April 29, 2019
Author Jeff Yang offered some suggestions on how BBC can do better next time.
A simple recipe for reducing cultural missteps, @BBCNews.
1. Write headlines like you’re aware that your readers are not necessarily “you”
2. Hire people who aren’t “you” to stave off unconscious bias
Bake at 360 degrees and let sit.
Serves: 376 million global consumers. pic.twitter.com/lEdbSPR9TL
— Jeff Yang (@originalspin) April 29, 2019
Most of the criticisms pointed out how BBC’s word choice promoted the othering of Korean cuisine.
Some called out BBC for its apparent double standards since foods associated with white people aren’t often described in this way.
Following the backlash, the post’s headline has since been changed to: “What gives kimchi its unusual flavour?”
Netizens, however, had some better suggestions for BBC:
That’s funny. They misspelled “good” as “odd”…
Congratulations on the James @beardfoundation award!
— 🌸Food Sake Tokyo🍱🌸 (@YukariSakamoto) April 30, 2019
Do they mean, “What makes kimchi taste so good?” ???
— Momo Chang (@momochang_oak) April 29, 2019
Featured image via BBC