K-drama ‘Big Mouth’ under fire for dialogue that allegedly perpetuates racial insensitivity

"Was the K-drama Big Mouth intending to be racist to Thailand?"

Crime-thriller K-drama Big Mouth has come under fire for dialogue that allegedly perpetuates racial insensitivity.

In the second episode of Big Mouth, which first aired on July 30, the series’ main character Park Chang-ho (played by Lee Jong-suk) provokes a fellow inmate on death row, asking if his mother had seaweed soup after giving birth to him.

In South Korea, it is custom for Korean mothers to have seaweed soup after giving birth. However, Chang-ho continued to rile the inmate up by asking what his mother had eaten after his birth for him to grow into a psychopath.

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“Did your mother eat seaweed soup after giving birth to you? I am really curious as to what she ate to have given birth to a psycho like you. Did she eat Tom Yum Kung? Or seonji soup?” Chang-ho asked the inmate, which takes place at around the one-hour mark of the episode. Tom Yum Kung is a hot and sour soup, widely known as a Thai delicacy.

After the episode had gone live, the scene had gone viral amongst Thai viewers, which led to a number of Thai netizens began criticising the drama for its alleged insensitivity towards Thai culture.

In one viral tweet, a Thai viewer posted screenshots of the subtitles from that specific scene and writing in the caption, “I’m not sure, but was the K-drama Big Mouth intending to be racist to Thailand? I’m not sure if it was translated correctly. But to ask, ‘After giving birth to a psychopath like you, did your mother eat Tom Yum Kung?’ Can someone who is fluent in Korean please analyse it?”

According to a report by South Korean news outlet Top Star Newsother Thai netizens have also voiced their concerns about the alleged racial undertones of Big Mouth’s script. “This is a racist line,” one unidentified netizen was reported to have said.

Other posts denouncing the purported racial undertones of the dialogue, as reported by Top Star News, also include: “The statement that he became a psychopath by eating Tom Yum Kung is racist”, as well as “A line that is not sensitive to racism”.

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Criticisms from Thai viewers of Big Mouth’s script later made their way to online South Korean forums, where Korean netizens expressing their solidarity with Thai audiences, per Koreaboo. Some of the comments posted to the forums include: “If I was in their shoes, I’d be upset too”, or “If a character in a Western drama said the same line asking, ‘Did your mom eat Kimchi Jjigae? Chungook Jang?’ we would be upset too”.

NME has reached out to representatives for Disney+ and MBC for comment. Neither organisations have yet to issue public statements in response to the backlash.

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