South Korean actor Park Eun-seok has issued an apology for playing a character on ongoing K-drama Penthouse that fans have slammed as racist.
Park’s new character on the third season of The Penthouse, also known as The Penthouse: War in Life, was introduced in the second episode as Alex Lee, the brother of previous character Logan Lee (also played by Park).
His appearance on the show drew ire from viewers, who noted his portrayal – which included sporting thick dreadlocks and golden teeth grills – played on racial stereotypes associated with the African American community. They also criticised his accent, which resembled African American Vernacular English.
Fans left shocked and angry comments on network SBS’s Instagram post of the character, with some demanding an apology from the network and others labelling the character “racist” and “cultural appropriation”.
The clip of his introductory scene also made rounds on social media, with Seoul-based author and journalist Raphael Rashid tweeting, “I guess the era of racism and racial stereotypes on Korean TV is still live and kicking.”
Last night's episode of Penthouse 3 introduces "Alex"… I guess the era of racism and racial stereotypes on Korean TV is still live and kicking.
Everything about this is… I just can't. Who thought this was a good idea?pic.twitter.com/VSMFo3iClq
— Raphael Rashid (@koryodynasty) June 12, 2021
On Sunday (June 13), Park posted an apology on his TikTok account addressing the criticism, telling fans that the character’s appearance was not meant to “harm, mock, disrespect or discourage the African-American community”.
“I’d like to apologise to the people who took offense by the character’s appearance,” he continued. “It was more admiration of the culture than mockery but now I’m aware that the approach was more CA [cultural appropriation]. It was wrong attempt for character development.” He also added that “as a minority”, he “should’ve known better”.
“Thank you for giving me the opportunity to grow in awareness,” he continued. “I hope you have the sincerity in your hearts to give the benefit of the doubt, that Alex’s appearance was rather a character approach who admired the culture and wanted to ‘be’ like, not intentionally portraying mockery.”
Please take time to read.
Park was formerly a permanent resident of the United States, having moved there at age 7 with his family until he was 22. The actor has since moved back to South Korea.
Penthouse 3 remains one of the most-watched television shows in South Korea. Soompi reported that its latest episode – with Park’s controversial character – scored average nationwide ratings of 15.2 per cent, 17.5 per cent, and 17.5 per cent for its three parts, making it the most-watched programme of any kind to air on any channel that entire day.