Even when the Korean wave didn’t have as large-scale global recognition as today, some Korean celebrities enjoyed international popularity. One of South Korea’s most popular actresses today also belonged to this list with her huge fanbase in China in the early 2000s.
The actress in question is none other than Jang Na Ra. Between 2004 and 2008, her career expanded into China, earning her many working opportunities there.
She was even selected as the only foreign artist to contribute her voice to the theme song for the Beijing Olympics. Jang was considered one of the pioneers of the Korean wave in China.
However, Jang Na Ra, who was famous by her translated name Zhang Nala in China, soon faced widespread backlash from Chinese people after an unfortunate slip of the tongue. During an interview on Korean TV, the actress made a remark, “Whenever I run out of money, I always go to China to work.” Her original implication, as many believe, was that she gets paid better in China. However, when the clip was shown in China, the translation of her remarks implied that she goes to China whenever she needs money.
This soured her relationship with Chinese fans, who felt she treated their country as a quick cash-grabbing opportunity. Despite apologizing, Jang Na Ra couldn’t get any more work in China.
Currently, the actress is basically boycotted in the industry, but her fan-following seems to have regained some footing. Her 2021 drama Sell Your Haunted House received a high rating on the Chinese social networking service Douban.
But it seems that even decades after her “controversy,” Jang Na Ra is not escaping it yet. A fresh wave of criticism has hit the actress after the Chinese media platform Sina accused her of “badmouthing” the Chinese entertainment industry.
On November 7, the publication said that back then, Jang Na Ra not only made the statement above but also claimed that while working in China, she had to comply with stringent restrictions. The severe difficulties while filming left her with no time to use the restroom.
While these could have been genuine concerns about the working conditions in the Chinese industry, netizens felt that these were exaggerated claims. They accused the actress once again of using the Chinese market for profit while defaming it everywhere else.
Though Jang’s career in China was extraordinarily successful, the boycott from the Chinese industry never really stopped her growth in South Korea. The 42-year-old continues to enjoy extensive popularity among K-Drama audiences, both domestically and across the globe.