Chinese member of K-pop group 'sets example' after refusing to kneel, sparking controversy
Published: Jan 09, 2022 09:04 PM
Photo: Sina Weibo

Photo: Sina Weibo

Chinese observers called for harmony in diversity and mutual respect in intercultural exchanges, while hailing a Chinese member of  a hit K-pop girl group Everglow as setting a good example for entertainers working overseas as she clung to Chinese culture by using traditional Chinese etiquette to give New Year's greetings instead of following her South Korean teammates to kneel.

Although attacked by a new wave of criticism from some South Korean netizens, Wang Yiren has received floods of support from China. In Chinese culture, "kneeling down" usually was adopted by a junior to a senior in traditional times, and it's commonly seen as being "servile to others" nowadays. 

Some viral photos of a fan signing session on January 2 showed that while the South Korean members of the South Korean girl group Everglow kneeled down before the audience members, most of whom are their fans, in gratitude for their support in the New Year, Wang, seen standing in the middle of the group, made a traditional Chinese gesture as a New Year greeting.

Wang's move evoked anger among many South Korean netizens who called on Wang to "go back to China." Meanwhile, some South Korean media including the Korea Times printed opinions like "why are you promoting in South Korea while you don't like Korean-style New Year's greetings?"

"Wang just went to South Korea for work, not to become a South Korean. She pursues her career in the country by spending a lot of effort in singing and dancing, which shows her love of K-pop culture. However, this does not mean she has to follow all South Korean culture. 'To seek harmony in diversity' is the principle of our cultural coexistence," Shi Wenxue, a cultural critic based in Beijing, told the Global Times.

He noted that the comments of some South Korean netizens this time were too harsh, and similar comments had been seen about other controversial issues including Chinese cultural blogger Li Ziqi and her videos about making Chinese-style pickles.

Zhang Peng, a film researcher at Nanjing University's National Research Center of Cultural Industries, who once paid a visit to South Korea's public television network KBS, called on some South Korean netizens to be more rational and not use their own national values to morally kidnap foreigners. 

"Wang has set a good example for Chinese entertainers developing their careers overseas," Zhang pointed out, noting that he was glad to see Chinese entertainers have formed their own cultural values and identity while working overseas. "They never forget their roots," Zhang said.

The escalation of the cultural conflict between China and South Korea is a reflection of the localization of fandom culture in China, which was introduced from South Korea but now isn't acknowledged by some South Korean netizens. 

"The more intense cultural disputes, the more we have to stick to our cultural roots," Zhang said.

The Global Times has tried to contact Wang, but she did not reply as of press time.

Wang is not the only Chinese idol working in South Korea to have suffered from this cultural dilemma.

Jackson Wang, the Chinese member of South Korean boy band GOT7, lay face down on the ground in a show while his band mates kneeled. Chinese singer Huang Zitao, a former member of another South Korean boy band EXO, chose to crouch on his knees. 

Some South Korean TV programs have also noted the cultural differences between China and South Korea. 

When the boy group SEVENTEEN attended Weekly Idol, a South Korean variety show, in 2018, the host said that the two Chinese members did not need to kneel when the other group members were performing the traditional aspect of New Year's etiquette.