Korean TV MBC draws flak for making fun of countries at Tokyo Olympics opening ceremony

Published July 25, 2021, 5:15 PM

by Jonathan Hicap

(Clockwise from top left) Photo of violence for Haiti, Chernobyl nuclear accident for Ukraine, salmon for Norway and Dracula for Romania (DC Inside / MBC)

Korean TV network MBC drew flak from its viewers and international community for using inappropriate photos and captions to introduce countries in its coverage of the opening ceremony of the Tokyo Olympics on July 23.

MBC used a photo of the 1986 Chernobyl nuclear accident to introduce the delegation from Ukraine and used a photo of violence in Haiti to refer to its country’s delegation.

The TV channel used a photo of Dracula for Romania, bitcoin for El Salvador, donkeys carrying poppies for Afghanistan, salmon for Norway and tacos for Mexico and pizza for Italy.

It also used inappropriate introductions for other countries. For the Philippines, MBC introduced it as “boxing hero [Manny] Pacquiao and [President Rodrigo] Duterte’s political showdown.” It described Marshall Islands as “once a US nuclear test site” and Myanmar as having “political instability due to military coup.”

For the Korean delegation, fans were ecstatic when MBC used a photo of K-pop superstars BTS.

MBC got the lowest TV rating of four percent for its coverage of the Tokyo Olympics compared to 8.4 percent for TV channel KBS1 and 4.8 percent for SBS.

Here is MBC’s full statement:

“We apologize to the countries concerned and our viewers. MBC used inappropriate images and captions to introduce some countries during the Tokyo Olympics opening ceremony on July 23.

“We sincerely apologize to the countries concerned and the viewers. The images and captions are intended to make it easier for the viewers to understand the entering countries quickly during the opening ceremony.

“However, we admit that there was a lack of consideration for the countries concerned, and inspection was not thorough enough. It is an inexcusable mistake.

“Again, we are deeply sorry and regretful for the mistake. We recognize the seriousness of the issue during the broadcast of the Olympic Games. We will thoroughly investigate the process of image selection, subtitling and inspection and strictly take follow-up measures based on the investigation result.

“Furthermore, we will fundamentally re-examine the production system of sports programs to avoid any similar accidents in the future.”