4 Times Mnet Came Under Fire For Cultural Appropriation

The incidents span from 2015 to 2023.

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.”

Former pre-debut group YOURS received praise for speaking about cultural appropriation | YOURS/YouTube

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.

“Unpretty Rapstar 2” poster | Mnet

When season two of the show aired, many viewers called out contestant Truedy for appropriating Black culture.

Even Truedy’s diss battle opponent, Gilme, called Truedy out for purposely wearing darker makeup.

Viewers were especially frustrated when the season ended with Truedy’s win, with many explaining that they couldn’t finish watching the show.

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.

A picture of the groups in “Kingdom: Legendary War” | Mnet

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.”

SF9 reacting to the performance | Mnet K-POP/YouTube 

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.

Shot from “Street Woman Fighter” | Mnet

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.

Due to viewers’ calling out the use of religious practices for “aesthetic purposes,” Mnet later issued an apology.

Dear audience,
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.

— Mnet

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.

“Boys Planet” poster | Mnet

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…

Many blamed Mnet for forcing the trainees into this position since all the trainees are fighting for their chance to debut.

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.

7 Of Mnet’s Worst Controversies Of 2021

Boys Planet

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