Netizens argue that this “prank” was tone-deaf.
A recently resurfaced clip from JTBC’s variety show Where Is My Friend’s Home has put the show’s cast member Julian under sharp scrutiny of Korean netizens. The video was originally uploaded on the JTBC Voyage YouTube channel in May 2020. But the controversy started after it got reposted on a Korean blogging site on July 19.
In the video, all the cast is seen sitting together with Julian Quintart’s family inside his home in Belgium. Suddenly, Julian’s father asks comedian Yoo Se Yoon to follow him into the kitchen without the cameras. While the rest of the members are speculating what this could be about, Se Yoon steps out of the kitchen in a maid costume. As the room erupts in laughter, Julian’s father reveals that he bought the costume at a carnival for fun. Se Yoon comments: “Well, this is embarrassing but also kind of funny, I guess.”
Korean netizens have varied opinions on this clip and the original intentions of Julian’s father behind this “prank.” Some feel that the move was racially charged and heavily criticized the Quintart family for not being self-aware.
- “They’re being so blatantly racist on air with zero shame in front of cameras… It’s fascinating, at this point. The way they think what they’re doing is acceptable and funny? Fascinating…”
- “Belgium, as a nation, is notorious for being racist, so I’m not surprised… Not at this ‘joke’ being racist AND misogynistic? Ha. I don’t even understand why he bought a maid costume in the first place.”
- “What’s even weirder is the fact that none of them think that’s racist… considering Belgium comes with such a long history of being racist. If the father really wanted to get a laugh [out of the costume], he should’ve made his own son put it on. Why did he pull this on a guest from a foreign country visiting his country? Blows my mind.”
- 434. “Tyler is the only one who sees it for what it is. Why is Zhang Yu’an laughing? Would any of them have laughed at this had Se Yoon been a black man?”
- 435. “Of course, in Belgium.”
- 436. “This is problematic because Se Yoon is a person of color and the rest of them are white. If they did not realize what they’re doing is racist and wrong, that is on them. BIPOC have been discriminated against for hundreds of years. In fact, the discrimination is not over yet. So, for these white guys to be doing what they did to Se Yoon, it only goes to show that they obviously don’t care [about the discrimination].”
In recent years, the “maid costume” has seen criticism for the way it hypersexualizes domestic helpers, who are often vulnerable to sexual and physical violence in the real world. Combine this with the fact that East Asian men face a lot of stigma and discrimination for being seen as “feminine”, particularly in the West, and it’s easy to see why this scene might have rubbed many viewers the wrong way.
On the other hand, some people are ready to give this situation the benefit of the doubt. Most of them are pointing out that the intention behind this act probably was not malicious, even if it could have been interpreted as racist. While others still mentioned that Se Yoon didn’t seem to be offended by this “joke.”
- “Tyler seems stunned because this could very much seem racist. But when Se Yoon responds positively, he starts laughing along. That’s what I really like about Tyler, he’s sensitive and has common sense. When I feel uncomfortable with a scene [watching this show], I automatically look for Tyler’s face to see how he’s responding. And, more often than not, I see him making the same face I’m making, which makes me feel much better.”
- 430. “I don’t know, though… To say this was racist against Asians, there was another Asian guest there. And Julian’s father knows Yoo Se Yoon is a comedian, so maybe he thought the whole thing would be funny. Yes, it’s suspicious because it happened in Belgium. But everyone there knew it would air on TV, and Julian’s father is the type who tries too hard to be funny. So I think, maybe, it was a careless gesture but not meant to be racist.”
- 433. “I watched this when it aired, and, if I remember correctly, Julian’s father found Yoo Se Yoon really funny. He laughed at Se Yoon’s monkey imitations and other comedic things that Se Yoon did. So even though they couldn’t communicate (because of a language barrier), the father really liked Se Yoon. And because the father also likes being ‘funny,’ he kept pranking and poking fun at Se Yoon—because he knew that Se Yoon would react positively. I think that’s how they eventually got to this scene. So I feel like the father did not intend on being racist toward Se Yoon, especially since Se Yoon is his son’s guest and they’re on TV. But… at the end of the day, this definitely seems racist on the surface, so… yeah.”
Some netizens also pointed out that this moment could have been scripted, in which case the production team should be held accountable.
- 428. “If this was scripted, the scriptwriters are racists. If not, then the family is. We don’t know for sure whose fault this is.”
But looks like there will be some waiting before any clarity, apology, or explanation comes up for this situation as neither of the parties has commented anything as of yet.