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Rapping or raping? Mnet audition show makes glaring gaffe

2017/03/09 09:00

By Chang Dong-woo

SEOUL, March 9 (Yonhap) -- It seems as though "High School Rapper," Mnet's audition show that pits the country's top teenage rappers against each other, just can't catch a break from controversy. First, it was a contestant's solicitation allegations, followed by accusations of bullying by another.

The latest? An innocent yet cringe-inducing production gaffe was aired last week that should embarrass Mnet and its parent company CJ E&M, South Korean entertainment behemoth and self-professed evangelist of K-pop overseas.

Last Friday, the show aired the finals for Seoul's eastern Gangdong district, where contestants fought to survive by finishing in the top two. In one berth, contestants Bang Jae-min, Lee Jee-eun and Park Eo-jin duked it out in a three-way match.

As normal in such audition shows, "High School Rapper" displays lyrics on screen. It could be argued that the necessity is greater, given that much of hip-hop lingo, even in Korea, is in English.

But in Friday's broadcast, perhaps the show would have been better off without the on-screen text -- when subtitles from female contestant Lee Jee-eun's performance read "Dancing and Dancing and I'm Raping and Raping uh," prompting English-speaking viewers to do a double take.

This image captured from Mnet's "High School Rapper" aired on March 3 shows contestant Lee Jee-eun's rap stage. At the bottom left are shown the lyrics, which include the word "Raping," a typo of "Rapping." (Yonhap) This image captured from Mnet's "High School Rapper" aired on March 3 shows contestant Lee Jee-eun's rap stage. At the bottom left are shown the lyrics, which include the word "Raping," a typo of "Rapping." (Yonhap)

This was clearly caused by a lack of English proficiency among the show runners, as Lee actually said "rapping," as opposed to raping, an act of sexual violence.

"Due to the busy production schedule, there were parts that were overlooked prior to airing. It was a clear mistake and we apologize," the production team at Mnet told Yonhap News Agency.

They also explained that in the rerun and online edit, the mistake has been corrected.

As aforementioned, the show has had its share of controversies since the beginning. Following its premiere on Feb. 10, the show became mired in controversy over allegations that contestant Chang Yong-joon had attempted to solicit prostitution in the past through Twitter.

Producers of the show then issued a statement that Chang "deeply regrets his immature actions from his younger days." Chang, who happens to be the son of Bareun Party Rep. Chang Je-won, immediately dropped out from the show.

This image captured from "High School Rapper" on Feb. 10 shows Chang Yong-joon, a high school student who later dropped out of the show after allegations surfaced that he tried to solicit sex through Twitter. (Yonhap) This image captured from "High School Rapper" on Feb. 10 shows Chang Yong-joon, a high school student who later dropped out of the show after allegations surfaced that he tried to solicit sex through Twitter. (Yonhap)

Later rumors surfaced on the Internet that contestant Yang Hong-won had engaged in serial bullying in the past. Yang also later apologized but stayed on the show.

Last week's typo came across as glaring to viewers to the extent of raising questions on Mnet and CJ's reputation as leading "hallyu" preachers.

"I couldn't believe my eyes," said Lim So-jung, a university student in Seoul, who said she watched the episode through CJ E&M's on-demand streaming app TVing.

"It was just disappointing that the production team would let such mistake, which makes a big difference, slip through," Lim said.

Oh Gyoo-yeol, a 39-year-old company worker in Seoul, also said he was flabbergasted by such a strange gaffe by a big company.

"As the country's leading entertainment company, Mnet, and ultimately CJ E&M, in many ways represents the South Korean entertainment industry. It was kind of funny and at the same time sad that such a big company would make a mistake like that."

   Or perhaps it is a sign of a greater systematic issue within Mnet. Last December's live broadcast of the Mnet Asian Music Awards, the network's annual flagship show that has been staged in Hong Kong for the past few years, was also marred by several on-screen English typos and text flubs.

Jeon Seong-deok, director at the Korea Brand Marketing Association, stressed the importance of maintaining a consistent level of quality, especially for media companies that seek to expand its overseas business.

"It's important to consult and receive help from related experts beforehand so as to maintain the (channel's) brand reputation and not damage it", Jeon said.

odissy@yna.co.kr

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