After the immense success of ‘Squid Game’ you would think that Western media would be much more aware of these Korean actors and their successful history by now. Think again.
While the SAG Awards proved to be a monumental moment not only for the ensemble of ‘Squid Game’ but for the entire Korean entertainment industry as well, some news outlets appeared to have ruined the moment with their ignorance.
After Lee Jung Jae and Jung Ho Yeon were victorious in winning ‘Best Male’ and ‘Best Female Actor In A Drama Series,’ alongside the ensemble winning ‘Best Stunt Ensemble in A TV Series’ and ‘Best Ensemble In A Drama Series,’ the cast appeared on the red carpet for interview questions. Eager and ready to share their thoughts of triumph, current emotions, and international success after working so hard in Korea, outlets like Access Hollywood had only mere cookie-cutter questions in mind.
A female reporter from Access Hollywood asked Lee Jung Jae and Jung Ho Yeon, “Now that you’re SAG winners, what are you going to miss most about being anonymous?” Lee Jung Jae had a baffled appearance as he refused to answer the disrespectful questions whereas Jung Ho Yeon answered with a smile, “Nothing! I want to have it (the award).” See the uncomfortable moment down below. The 1:30 mark.
Where as many immediately recognize why the question was disrespectful, for those who do not know, let me explain why it was rude. Lee Jung Jae has been acting for nearly 30 years since his debut in ‘Dinosaur Teacher’ and ‘Feelings.’ In Korea, Lee Jung Jae is not just some local commodity – working with him is a huge respect and on another level in itself.
He has continued to prove how versatile his acting skills are and ‘Squid Game’ is not his first international screen appearance. In 2010 Lee Jung Jae stepped on to the red carpet at the Cannes International Film Festival with the movie ‘The Maid.’ He was a guest at the NYAFF (New York Asian Film Festival) for his lead appearance as a villianous general in the 2013 film ‘Face Reader’ as well as bringing hope to the 1950’s war-torn story ‘Operation Chromite’ which released in 2016 and reeled in $50.9 million dollars in the U.S. box office alone.
With all of this under his belt, Lee Jung Jae is not only a household name but a real veteran leader of the Korean entertainment and acting industry. Lee Jung Jae is highly recognized in Asia and only the West seems ignorant enough to not know this. Despite the limited press access and being given the chance to ask Lee Jung Jae any question they could, this reporter spoiled the moment and mood for viewers everywhere.
Korean netizens were extremely outraged by the thoughtless question and wonder if any outlets are honestly doing research on the actors despite the reporter enthusiastically saying, “I love, love, looove Squid Game!” Do you, though?
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While programs like ‘The Jimmy Fallon Show’ successfully interviewed the ‘Squid Game’ cast in the most entertaining interview ever, other outlets continue to mislabel and underestimate Lee Jung Jae’s level of fame alongside Jung Ho Yeon. Despite this being her first acting role, not only are her achievements are not only beyond incredible but Jung Ho Yeon is also a highly established model within Korea and internationally, so, she too has spent her time in the spotlight.
It seems international news and English-based outlets unintentionally devalue the actor as even their titles put him at a lower level when discussing his international stardom. Aside from this incident, many outlets in the past have proven to be unaware of Korean celebrities’ levels of success or made an off-putting joke rather than highlighting their achievements.
For example, when Youn Yuh Jung received the Best Supporting Actress award at the 93rd Academy Awards ceremony in April for ‘Minari’ she was engulfed in controversy after a reporter asked, “What did Brad Pitt smell like as the presenter?” to which she replied “I’m not a dog.” The video was quite alarming to viewers and was soon deleted after. However, netizens stated “Extra TV and reporters should apologize’officially’ to Yoon Yeo-jung before deleting the part.”
Again, these aren’t the only occasions where reporters mess up an interview. Another reporter for NBC ‘Extra TV’ in the US asked Lee Jung Jae, “I think it’s hard to get out of the house now that people recognize it so much. There will be big changes in life after ‘Squid Game’, but are there any inconveniences?” To which he replied, “Oh, in the U.S?” showing his true thoughts on the topic indirectly. The thoughts of the reporters are very U.S.-centric.
Sadly, these well-known American media platforms revealed just how little research they did as they asked impersonal questions towards Lee Jung Jae and Jung Ho Yeon. Many fans commented on the videos saying, “He (Lee Jung Jae) has always been a top star since he appeared in the legendary drama ‘Sandglass’ in Korea 30 years ago.
Even if it is not a squid game, there are many famous dramas and movies in his filmography. Just because the US doesn’t know doesn’t mean it’s anonymous” and “Interviewers should consider their questions with a global mindset more.”
Outside of the acting world, many situations like this occur with Korean idols as well such as when NCT 127 had been mistaken for BTS at the AMAs, as well as on the street and on many other occasions. Even often being compared to them can be tiring and rude.
Korean entertainment and celebrities are continuing to successfully grow internationally. More and more outlets need to recognize that the U.S. viewpoint isn’t the only standard for fame and deeply value the contributions these people have made to their countries’ pop culture and media.
What do you think of the issue surrounding this event? Should the questions be simply worded differently or should outlets refrain from these kinds of questions altogether? Leave your thoughts in the comments below.