South Korea’s largest cinema chain CJ CG has angered foreigners in the country with a campaign for April Fools’ Day deemed by many to be racist.
It this week announced a promotion which called upon customers to dress and speak like “foreigners” to get a discount on movie tickets, releasing a poster depicting people in mock traditional attire from China, India, Japan and Scotland.
“It’s a one-day event where we’re saying we’ll give discounts to practically anyone and everyone,” a CGV spokesperson told The Korea Herald prior to the controversy. “You don’t even have to speak a proper foreign language. Say whatever gibberish, we’ll still give the discounts.”
South Korea’s news agency Yonhap reported online backlash against the event, particularly from the local expatriate community.
— Seoulody (@Seoulody) March 28, 2018
“Oh no, this is just not gonna work well,” US national Jennifer You, who has lived in the country since 2008 told Korea Exposé. “I don’t think Korea has a strong enough history of training in cultural sensitivity to handle an event like this with tact.”
Racism has been identified as a major problem in South Korea by scholars and even the United Nations. The World Values Survey from 2010-2014 found that almost half of the Korean population said that they would not want a foreigner as a neighbour.
“If people feel that way then we might have to reconsider the event. But that was never our intention,” said a representative of CGV responding to criticism. “We will try to revise and strengthen (our projects) whenever we receive feedback.”
“The poster is designed to be funny because it’s an event for April Fools’ Day. The last thing we want to do is mock a culture,” they added.