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[Newsmaker] MBC apologizes for sexist comment during election coverage

MBC’s election coverage shows the real-time vote count for candidates Lee Soo-jin (left) and Na Kyung-won on Wednesday. (Screen capture from MBC’s YouTube channel)
MBC’s election coverage shows the real-time vote count for candidates Lee Soo-jin (left) and Na Kyung-won on Wednesday. (Screen capture from MBC’s YouTube channel)

Network broadcaster MBC apologized Wednesday night for a demeaning comment about two female candidates during its general election coverage, which drew public outrage.

The incident took place as MBC was delivering poll results in real time for a constituency in Dongjak, Seoul, where two female candidates -- Lee Soo-jin of the ruling Democratic Party of Korea and Na Kyung-won of the United Future Party -- were leading the pack.

While covering the match between the two judges-turned-politicians, the station aired the prerecorded comment “Eonni (older sister), you don’t like me, do you?”

The same expression was used in 2015 when a spat between two female celebrities became public via a leaked video. Since then, it has been used comically and has come to represent petty quarrels between women.

Criticisms mounted, with many viewers denouncing the broadcaster for demeaning the two politicians by characterizing their contest as a personal fight.

Around midnight, MBC formally apologized for the incident.

“Some of our viewers have pointed out that the expression used as we were delivering the exit poll results for Seoul’s Dongjak area was misogynic,” MBC anchorman Seong Jang-kyeong said during the live election coverage. “We apologize for failing to be cautious and causing such misunderstanding.”

Meanwhile, KBS, which took a more sedate approach to the election coverage, outperformed MBC in viewer ratings.

According to Nielsen Korea data Thursday, the state-owned KBS marked the highest viewership rating of any news channel throughout Wednesday night. Between 5:45 p.m. and 7 p.m., when viewership peaked as the exit poll results were announced, KBS’ rating stood at 11.7 percent, followed by MBC’s at 4.9 percent and SBS’ at 3.8 percent.

By Choi Ji-won (jwc@heraldcorp.com)
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