South Korea’s MBC sparks outrage over ‘inappropriate’ images for each country in Olympic opening

MBC

South Korean broadcaster MBC has apologized for its use of “inappropriate” images and captions to represent countries in its live coverage of the Tokyo Olympics’ opening ceremony.

What happened: In its hours-long livestream that started on Thursday (local time), MBC used stereotypical or erroneous photos and captions to represent several countries as their athletes were introduced on screen. On Sunday, the network committed another “mistake” after mocking Romanian footballer Marius Marin.

  • El Salvador – MBC flashed a promotional bitcoin poster, referring to the country’s adoption of the cryptocurrency as legal tender.
  • Haiti – MBC described the country as having “an unstable political situation due to the assassination of the president.”
  • Italy – MBC flashed a close-up image of a pizza.
  • Japan – MBC flashed an image of sushi.
  • Marshall Islands – MBC described the country as “a former nuclear test site for the United States.”
  • Nauru – MBC described the country as “experiencing economic decline with the depletion of its major natural resource, phosphorite.”
  • Norway – MBC flashed a close-up image of a sliced salmon.
  • Romania – MBC flashed a portrait of Dracula from the 1931 English-language movie of the same name.
  • Syria – MBC described the country as having “a civil war that has been going on for 10 years.”
  • Ukraine – MBC flashed an aerial image of the 1986 Chernobyl disaster.
  • MBC also cited some countries’ COVID-19 vaccination rates, such as that of Afghanistan.
  • MBC also described Australia as the “Heartland of Oceania” and Iran as the “Center of Islam,” which left viewers scratching their heads, The Korea Times said.

The aftermath: MBC drew a massive backlash as its broadcast went on. By the end, the network apologized for “inappropriate images and captions were used to introduce the participating countries,” as per the Korea Herald.

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  • On Saturday, MBC issued a formal apology and explained that its intention was to introduce countries in a manner that viewers can easily remember. The network acknowledged that they had “no respect and consideration for the countries” and vowed to avoid similar “mistakes” in the future.
  • It did not take long for MBC to be caught in another blunder, however. On Sunday, the broadcaster made a controversial remark during the half-time break of a football match between South Korea and Romania.
  • MBC made the caption “Thank you Marin,” referring to Romanian defender Marius Marin, who scored an own goal in the 27th minute and gave South Korea a 1-0 lead, according to Yonhap News. Subsequently, the Romanian Football Association tweeted, “South Korean public broadcasting station MBC mocked Marius Marin‘s moment of shame with a message ‘Thank you Marin, own goal.’”
  • MBC President Park Sung-jae found himself apologizing for days over the incidents. He told reporters on Monday, “As the chief executive of MBC’s content, I offer my deepest apologies with my head bowed down to the people who had to go through pain due to our reckless and careless broadcast and to viewers who were disappointed with us.”

Featured Image Screenshots via MBC

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