Park Eun-seok apologises for cultural appropriation

Park Eun-seok recently took to TikTok to apologise for cultural appropriation in episode 2 of Penthouse 3, which aired on 12 June 2021. The incident in question involved Alex Lee, the character that Park Eun-seok plays in Penthouse 3.

Cultural appropriation in Penthouse 3

Park Eun-seok, who plays Logan Lee, returned as a new character named Alex Lee in Penthouse 3. Alex Lee is supposedly Logan’s brother. 

park eun-seok cultural appropriation - park eun-seok as alex lee
Image credit: @sbsdrama.official

He appeared in dreadlocks and was covered in tattoos. He also clad in baggy clothing and chunky accessories, and even sported silver grills on his lower row of teeth. On top of that, Alex Lee was seen walking around with a black bodyguard in the episode.

Fans are upset at the misinterpretation of black culture

Following the release of episode 2 and Alex Lee’s appearance, fans left comments and feedback on SBS Drama’s official Instagram.

Some mentioned that of all the ways the producers could bring back Logan Lee, they couldn’t believe that the producers chose to bring back the character in this culturally insensitive manner. 

park eun-seok cultural appropriation - comments under SBS' Instagram 2
Screenshot of comments under SBS’ post of Alex Lee stills.

Another netizen also left a comment under SBS’s post, saying that the Korean entertainment industry is “crossing the line” and perpetuating the stereotype that black people are “thugs”.

park eun-seok cultural appropriation - comments under SBS' Instagram 1
Screenshot of a comment under SBS’ post of Alex Lee stills.

Under Korean contemporary news site Insights Instagram post, many commented that they were baffled by the portrayal. Similar to international fans, one Korean netizen commented that Penthouse “crossed the line” with Alex Lee, and that comment garnered more than 1.6k likes.

park eun-seok cultural appropriation - comments on Insight
Screenshot of comments on Instagram

Other comments include “This is a mess” and “This really isn’t it”.

Park Eun-seok apologises on TikTok

Following the controversy, Park Eun-seok took to TikTok to release an apology for his character’s cultural appropriation. He said that instead of mockery, Alex’s appearance was done in “admiration of the culture”.

In his statement, Park Eun-seok acknowledged that, despite their intentions, it was still cultural appropriation.

park eun-seok cultural appropriation - park eun-seok's apology
Image adapted from: @_____silverstone_____

Upon the release of the actor’s apology, a couple of netizens wondered why he posted it on TikTok instead of his Instagram accounts.

park eun-seok cultural appropriation - why tiktok
Images adapted from: @ejiahwonders and @eatsleepkdramas

SBS and the production team’s response

As of 14th June 2021, SBS has yet to respond to the issue, and neither has Penthouse’s production team released a statement addressing this controversy.

Update (15th June 2021): The production team has released a statement saying, “We were not intending to mock a specific race or culture.”

Park Eun-seok’s character’s cultural appropriation in Penthouse 3

Cultural appropriation is a serious issue and shouldn’t be taken lightly. We hope that Park Eun-seok and the rest of the team at Penthouse will learn from this incident, so that things like these will not be repeated in the future. 

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Cover image adapted from: @sbsdrama.official and @_____silverstone_____

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