'Go back to China': K-pop singer attacked for not kneeling before Korean fans

A Chinese member of K-pop group Everglow has taken racist attacks and criticism online after using traditional Chinese etiquette when greeting fans instead of kneeling down like her Korean bandmates.

Singer Wang Yiren was with other members of Everglow at an event on Jan 2 to greet fans in Seoul, while other members knelt down and touched the floor with their foreheads in traditional Korean style, Wang used a Chinese hand gesture – the fist and palm salute – to express thanks and New Year greetings.

In Chinese culture kneeling down is seen as a servile gesture and is no longer considered appropriate. In South Korea, it remains in use as a way to greet others and offer thanks.

While Wang’s gesture was widely praised in China, South Koreans quickly attacked the move online.

Comments like “Go back to China” and “Don’t earn money in Korea” were common.

“All this shows that the Chinese are arrogant and have no respect or consideration for other cultures,” wrote one commenter on K-pop news site allkpop.

“Stop making Korean money and go back to your country then,” wrote another.

However, Chinese fans praised her stance and defended the singer online, with the hashtag “Wang Yiren, Chinese people don’t kneel” trending after a photo of the event was posted on Everglow’s Weibo account.

“Chinese people don’t kneel down,” wrote one commenter on Weibo.

“I’m proud of this idol who keeps Chinese traditions,” said another user.

Some pointed out the impossible situation cultural differences between the two countries put artists like Wang in.

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“If you kneel, you will be scolded by Chinese netizens, and if you don’t kneel, you will be scolded by Korean netizens. It’s really hard to be an artist!” said one user.

Neither Wang nor Everglow’s South Korean management company Yue Hua Entertainment has commented on the incident.

However, on Monday (Jan 10) Yue Hua Entertainment issued a statement telling fans that Wang would be returning to China till next month to see family and pursue study.

“Yiren has to go back to China from mid-January till the end of February due to her academic status, so she will be taking a break there for a while to spend time with her family, whom she hasn’t seen in a long time because of Covid-19,” the company said.

“Everglow will continue their domestic activities with five members, and carry out their schedule as planned.”

Cultural differences have been a source of tension between the two countries in the past; in January last year, Chinese influencer Li Ziqi caused controversy when she promoted a recipe for “traditional Chinese pickles” that many in South Korea claimed was a traditional Korean dish and accused her of cultural appropriation and theft.

The influencer demonstrated the recipe in a video in which she pickled vegetables, using a method similar to that used for kimchi, and added the hashtags #ChineseCuisine and #ChineseFood.

These tensions have escalated in recent years, with actions like Wang’s previously not being seen as controversial in South Korea.

In 2018, two Chinese members of K-pop group SEVENTEEN were told when attending a South Korean talent variety show that they did not need to kneel down while other Korean members performed the traditional New Year’s greeting.

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The South China Morning Post has sought comment from Wang and Yue Hua Entertainment but had not received a reply at the time of writing.

This article was first published in South China Morning Post.


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