4 Times Mnet Came Under Fire For Cultural Appropriation
The Hallyu wave has brought Korean culture to fans worldwide as Korean skincare, food, dramas, movies, and music are consumed globally. But despite how prominent aspects of Korean culture are globally, cultural appropriation continues to be a prevalent issue.
Many K-Pop idols, entertainment companies, and television series have been called out for cultural appropriation, defined as “The unacknowledged or inappropriate adoption of the customs, practices, ideas of one people or society by members of another and typically more dominant people or society.”
As Mnet is one of the prominent TV music channels in Korea, there have been many instances where netizens have called Mnet out for rigging competitions, mistreatment, and cultural appropriation.
Here are four times that Mnet has come under fire for cultural appropriation.
1. Unpretty Rapstar 2
Mnet‘s Unpretty Rapstar is a music competition highlighting the skills of Korean female rappers competing to be the best.
When season two of the show aired, many viewers called out contestant Truedy for appropriating Black culture.
thats truedy she been cosplaying blasian since forever she was on on unpretty rapstar the same show that made jessi big she not tryna be her son she just also like that 😭 https://t.co/UZtFPNCQw9 pic.twitter.com/SsgGrp5aVK
— niko (@SVTFlRST) December 14, 2021
Even Truedy’s diss battle opponent, Gilme, called Truedy out for purposely wearing darker makeup.
Gilme calls out Truedy for appropriating black culture during their rap battle in Unpretty Rapstar 2. pic.twitter.com/OqNmRmvmDC
— MEMORABLE KPOP (@memorablekpop) June 9, 2016
Viewers were especially frustrated when the season ended with Truedy’s win, with many explaining that they couldn’t finish watching the show.
i remember purposefully not watching the last episode of unpretty rapstar 2 because i didnt wanna see truedy win
— junhyeon fans refugia (@junhyeontron) November 25, 2017
im still pressed that truedy won unpretty rapstar s2 😡😡
— jas (@lottomp3) December 27, 2016
2. Kingdom: Legendary War
Mnet’s Kingdom: Legendary War featured six K-Pop boy groups competing through different stages to show their impressive performances and talents.
In one video uploaded to Mnet’s YouTube channel, the competing groups reacted to their three most-watched performances on YouTube. This compilation included SF9‘s 2018 stage for “Mama Mia.” For the song, SF9’s Dawon wore dreadlocks for both the concept photos and stages until fans called out the cultural appropriation, at which time Dawon immediately changed his hairstyle for all future stages.
However, Mnet included a stage where Dawon was still performing in dreadlocks for the group’s reaction, which upset fans as multiple members laughed at the clip, with Zuho even saying it looked like Dawon had “a tarantula on his head.” Fans especially voiced their displeasure with Mnet, as not only did Mnet choose to use that particular stage, but the video editors captioned the clip, calling the hairstyle “messy.”
The video has since been edited and no longer includes any mention of Dawon’s hair.
3. Street Woman Fighter
Mnet’s Street Woman Fighter highlighted female dance crews in Korea who competed in various dynamic stages, showing their impressive skills.
During the first episode’s opening, fans were already calling out Mnet for using an Islamic practice in the soundtrack. Muslim viewers of the show recognized the intro song as a remixed version of an adhan (also written as azan and adzan), an Islamic call to prayer recited at prescribed times of the day.
Non Muslim will think that we're overeacted or dramatic but I want to clarify that our adzan is NOT for a clout purpose. It's NOT something that you can put as a remix & make a song out of it. As a muslim I'm really disappointed and offended by @MnetKR's behavior.#Mnetapologize
— Syaaa (@Syasyeesyuu) September 7, 2021
Due to viewers’ calling out the use of religious practices for “aesthetic purposes,” Mnet later issued an apology.
On behalf of the Mnet Street Woman Fighter production team, we offer a sincere apology regarding the soundtrack used in the opening of the first episode of Street Woman Fighter.
The song is an electronic soundtrack that is officially registered on the official streaming site. The production team thought that the electronic sound of the song was suitable as the background music of the program. We certainly did not hold any other intentions.
We sincerely apologize for the unintended inconvenience caused by the possibility of recalling a specific rhyme. Respecting your criticism, the video will be re-uploaded after replacing the background music.
Mnet will continue to listen to the opinions of the viewers around the world. We appreciate your interest in Mnet Street Woman Fighter.
4. Boys Planet
Mnet’s currently airing survival show, Boys Planet, features 98 contestants competing to secure a final spot in the top nine to debut as a new K-Pop boy group.
A recent episode of the show came under fire for using cultural appropriation as part of a “prank.” In the episode, performance groups were “pranked,” as a staff member gave them costumes for their performance. One group, which includes PENTAGON‘s Hui, was given a headdress, a special item worn by Indigenous groups/nations, that all the trainees looked uncomfortable with.
Hui even asked for confirmation that he was expected to wear it before putting the headdress on.
Although netizens called out the trainees for laughing at the group’s reaction to the headdress…
is this design/headpiece apart of Native American culture ?? I’m not from America I’m genuinely asking based on limited awareness.
Why did Hui and his team pass this around thinking it was so funny ??#Boysplanet pic.twitter.com/MTgXGkQhTg
— THATS NOT MY FEET !!!!!! (@itsdaevil) March 2, 2023
Many blamed Mnet for forcing the trainees into this position since all the trainees are fighting for their chance to debut.
you could literally see how confused he was when the pd offered it to him and he said "why? really? are you serious?" and tried to laugh it off bc he was uncomfortable https://t.co/XCiPs5gXx9
— amaya (@taeksite) March 2, 2023
oh god not the cultural appropriation come on mnet
— ali | zhang hao's boyfriend (@ali_istired) March 2, 2023
Mnet has yet to respond to the most recent controversy.
You can read more about the prevalence of cultural appropriation in K-Pop here.
The Reason Why Cultural Appropriation is Such An Issue In K-Pop, According To A Cultural Studies Professor
You can read more about Mnet’s controversies here.
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