|An image of Chernobyl was shown as the Ukrainian players enter the stadium during MBC’s broadcast of the opening ceremony of the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, July 23. Screenshot from MBC|
By Kwon Mee-yoo
The Embassy of Ukraine in Korea expressed discomfort after MBC used an image of Chernobyl to introduce the country during the opening ceremony for the Tokyo Olympics, and urged Korean media to instead respect the country’s history and achievements.
“We feel very uncomfortable that our country, with its long years of history, incredible achievements in many spheres, great, talented people,and rich culture might be associated mainly with this tragic event,” the Embassy of Ukraine in Korea told The Korea Times via e-mail, Friday
On July 23, when Ukrainian athletes were shown on the screen, during the parade of nations, MBC used an image of the 1986 Chernobyl disaster ― considered the worst nuclear accident in modern history ― to introduce the country.
After mounting criticism over the use of inappropriate images and captions, MBC President Park Sung-jae officially apologized July 26, and sent individual official letters of apology to the embassies of Ukraine and Romania. Park said that he could not send an apology to Haiti, as it has withdrawn its diplomatic mission from Seoul.
The Ukrainian Embassy said it had received an official letter from the company as well as many messages of support from the Korean people with warm words over the opening weekend.
“We are very grateful for all Korean friends of Ukraine. … We understand that Ukraine is quite far by distance from the Republic of Korea and some people may not know much about our country, but we do believe that with the assistance of the mass media, Korean audiences will receive more reliable and positive information about our country,” the embassy said.
“Ukraine will celebrate its 30th anniversary of Independence on Aug. 24, and next year will mark 30 years since Ukraine and the Republic of Korea established a diplomatic relationship, on Feb. 10, 1992. In this regard, we do hope that the Korean media will pay special attention to these historic dates.”
Other offensive descriptions of countries during the opening ceremony include a photo and caption referring to the assassination of Haiti’s President Jovenel Moise in July, upon the arrival of Haiti’s athletes into the stadium; a bitcoin symbol to represent El Salvador, where the cryptocurrency is legal tender; and a caption of the Marshall Islands stating they were “once a nuclear test site for the United States.”
The broadcaster also used stereotypical images to introduce some countries: pizza for Italy, salmon for Norway, sushi for Japan and Dracula for Romania.