Made-in-China bibimbap sparks outrage in K-drama Vincenzo

Song Joong-ki plays a lawyer raised by the Italian mafia in Vincenzo. PHOTO: NETFLIX

Popular K-drama Vincenzo is facing a backlash in South Korea after two lead characters are shown eating instant bibimbap from a Chinese brand.

In a scene from the episode aired on Sunday (March 14), actors Song Joong-ki and Jeon Yeo-been dig into bowls of the famous rice dish, while the camera zooms in on the brand name of the sponsor, Zihaiguo.

The product placement sparked outrage on social media, with netizens slamming broadcaster tvN for allowing Chinese appropriation of a beloved Korean dish.

"What is this Chinese bibimbap product placement? Now they (Chinese) are going to argue that bibimbap is a Chinese dish," wrote one netizen, whose view was echoed by many.

The outcry comes in the wake of a cultural feud over kimchi between the two countries. Recently, China's state-owned newspaper Global Times claimed the Korean side dish is a variation of a Chinese pickled vegetable dish called "paocai".

There have also been other controversies in the past when China claimed traditional Korean clothing, known as hanbok, and a traditional Korean genre of music, pansori, as its own.

Some Korean viewers were concerned that international audiences of the drama, which is also released on Netflix after each episode is aired in South Korea, would be confused into thinking that bibimbap was a Chinese dish.

Others defended the big-budget production, saying it needed to cover the 20 billion won (S$24 million) spent on its production.

The drama, a black comedy about an Italian-Korean lawyer for the Mafia, has been a hit since it started airing last month and is currently the 16th highest-rated drama in South Korean cable TV history.

According to entertainment web portal Koreaboo on Tuesday, tvN has contacted Zihaiguo, which is well-known in China but not in South Korea, to discuss cancelling the contract.

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