If you follow K-Pop, you have all probably heard about this controversy. As a neutral who doesn’t listen to Everglow but is well-versed in both Chinese and Korean culture, here is my take on it.
First, we have to know that bowing, or kowtowing in this case, is a topic that has been debated numerous times in China. It is not something new. When a picture of a man bowing to his parents surfaced in a Chinese newspaper, many people respected him for being a filial son, while some thought it was too much.
Even when students in China bow down to their parents, there will be some netizens online Even when students in China bow down to their parents, there will be some netizens online bashing the act. Even though they are unrelated to the parents and children, they will try to force their beliefs onto others.
From what I can see, there is an increasing trend of Chinese people choosing to let go of their culture. To become more modern and individualistic. It is okay if you do not want to bow down to your parents or elders to show respect. But again, people should not force how others should think and act.
Ultimately, bowing down to someone is a sign of ultimate reverence. It does not make you any less of a person. Of course, you wouldn’t just bow down to a random stranger. Most people bow down to their parents or elders to show respect and gratitude. I don’t know how to think of the world if we have to repress positive feelings for the sake of “progressiveness”. It is a simple act of showing respect, nothing more, nothing less.
Now let’s go back to Korea and Wang Yiren. First of all, the company she is in is Yuehua Entertainment. It is a multinational entertainment company from China. So there is a possibility of them instructing her on what she can and can not do while in Korea to manage how she represents her country.
In defence of Yiren, the gesture she performed is the Chinese way of wishing someone Chinese New Year. Koreans bow down to show respect, Wang Yiren did it the Chinese way. Yuehua is a Chinese company. Perhaps, it seemed natural for the company to think a Chinese member could have another variation to wish new years to the fans.
If I had not known about this gesture, I would have been heartbroken, seeing an idol I supported not respecting their fans (especially in Korean culture!) A breakdown of communication and cultural awareness created a rift between the fans and the Yiren. It also initiated a war between two factions online, either for or against Koreans and their culture.
Arguing about something is very easy nowadays, especially in this day and age where everyone picks up their pitchforks to prove who is right before having a calm discussion to understand differences.
As a company, I would have addressed this immediately instead of letting it fester and allowing people’s hatred for other cultures to increase. What should they have done? Other than letting people know about the Chinese way to greet someone a new year, the group could have done both ways of wishing a new year to their fans so that they could appreciate all cultures in question.