SBS apologises to Indonesians as K-drama Racket Boys draws flak for negative depiction

·Contributor
·4 min read
Racket Boys
Indonesians are angry with an episode of the badminton K-drama Racket Boys in which a South Korean coach makes disparaging comments about their country.

Recently, K-dramas have come under fire for falling afoul of audiences' sensitivities. 

Earlier this year, Vincenzo, starring Song Joong Ki, drew the ire of Korean netizens for featuring a Chinese branded bibimbap. Following that was the blatant portrayal of an African American stereotype by actor Park Eun Seok in Penthouse; the actor has since apologised for his character.

Just last week, the production team of Racket Boys and TV network SBS had to apologise for their negative portrayal of Indonesia, which has had Indonesian netizens up in arms and taking to social media to call for apologies and clarification.

The offending scenes occurred in episode five, in which Lee Jae In plays a badminton player Han Se Yoon who visits Indonesia with her coaches for a badminton championship hosted by Jakarta.

In one scene, the South Korean head coach Fang played by Ahn Nae Sang complains loudly at the hotel, saying that the rooms allocated to the team's players are "a mess", and an assistant coach tries to assuage his anger by telling him that "it wasn't the first time".

Fang goes on to call the organisers "jerks", accusing the host country of letting their own national team play in an air-conditioned stadium, while the visiting Korean team had to play in "some run-down place with no air-conditioner".

In another scene, an assistant coach accuses the Indonesian fans at a competition venue of being rude when they cheered on their local player because Han Ye Soon made an error and lost a point. Head coach Fang then says that "they wouldn't boo if they had any manners".

The scenes drew the ire of many Indonesian viewers, who say the drama belittled Indonesians and insulted the Indonesian national team and its fans. 

Badminton is a sport which is considered not only a national pastime in Indonesia, but also the pride of the country as the current number one men's doubles badminton team in the world is an Indonesian team, comprising Marcus Fernaldi Gideon and Kevin Sanjaya Sukamuljo. The badminton world number two men's doubles team is also an Indonesian team: veterans Hendra Setiawan and Mohammad Ahsan.

"It's really disappointing," an internet user commented on SBS's Instagram. "We Indonesian fans never mock other countries. Please clarify what (head coach) Fang said."

An Instagram user said under a post promoting the series: “Don’t let them trample Indonesia’s [name]. They know that we really love Korean drama. So they thought they could do whatever they wanted?”

Fans went even further and altered the IMDB (Internet Movie Database) website in a coordinated attempt to bring the show’s rating down. It is now rated just 1 star out of 10 on the popular site, where the show’s name was briefly edited to RacketRacist before being changed back to the original.

Vitriol from Indonesian netizens continue to ring out stridently on social media, expressing hurt and disappointment with the K-drama.

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The strong backlash also prompted both the production team and SBS to issue a statement of apology in Bahasa Indonesian.

According to The Korea Times, SBS said on Instagram, "We apologise for offending our viewers in Indonesia. We did not intend to insult any particular country, player or audience … We will make sure to take extra care on filming our next episodes."

It remains to be seen if Indonesian netizens will be placated by the statement.

Produced by Pan Entertainment, Racket Boys premiered on SBS TV in South Korea and Netflix internationally on 31 May. The show stars actors Kim Sang Kyung, Oh Na Ra, Tang Jun Sang, and Son Sang Yeon. You can read our review of the drama here.

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