By NATASHA IMAN
Up-and-coming rookie group Block B, well known for their musical talent and boisterous personalities, have recently been put in the spotlight by fans after an unfortunate interview in Thailand on Jan 27.
Members of Block B sat down for an interview with Thai media outlet RYT9, and from the video uploaded on YouTube, the boys were very brash throughout the interview. Their energetic disposition in front of the media was quickly overshadowed by the insouciant attitude some of the members displayed towards victims of the recent Thailand floods.
As press members begun questioning them about the floods, leader Zico remarked, “With this monetary aid, we hope you feel better. The only thing we have is money.” And when asked how much money he had, he replied, “About 7,000 won (RM20)”, causing the other members to erupt in laughter.
Three days after the interview, videoclips were uploaded onto RYT9’s official YouTube channel and viewers were quick to condemn Block B’s actions and tasteless comments. The video got more than 1.5 million viewers, which increased after other Korean artistes censured Block B’s behaviour on Twitter.
Being of Thai descent, Nichkhun, a member of boy group 2PM, tweeted: “As a Thai person I feel offended by those who speak about the Thailand floods without thinking. Also instead of coming to Thailand and acting mindlessly, please respect the country’s manners, and only act in a proper way.”
His tweet was then followed those from other 2PM members, namely Junho and Chansung, and later on by U-Kiss member Dongho, who has since deleted his tweet.
Following the scandal, Block B has released countless apologies for their controversial interview. Reflecting upon their mistakes, each member individually issued an official apology through their entertainment agency and a video where sombre members were seen giving 90° bows to viewers as an apology to the entire Thai community for their comments.
In addition to that, leader Zico also shaved his head to show remorse for his actions and took responsibility for the scandal that had shrouded the group. On Feb 23, Korean media reported that the youngest member of Block B – P.O. – had been hospitalised for suffering from shock, as criticisms towards the group grew stronger weeks after the incident took place. It had been reported that a petition for the death of all Block B group members was what landed P.O. in hospital; however, there was no trace of the petition.
While backlash would be expected after such tasteless comments, what exactly fuelled the interview scandal to such an extent?
Sure, the interview portrayed a group of insensitive young boys and their lack of humility came across as disrespectful. However, the media was also quick to paint a picture of an unforgivable situation.
Most of the backlash came from K-pop fans due to misunderstanding, misinterpretations and inconsistencies in the information published in the media. News that Thailand-based companies were going to break trade deals with Korea build the entire scandal up to the point where fans could no longer distinguish what was fact, or simply fiction.
Comments made on online forums were transformed into news articles even before thorough investigations were conducted.
There was also the fact that there were many cultural differences and language barriers that stood among the Block B members, the Thai media and international fans.
The interview featured questions by the Thai media that was being translated to the Block B members and their answers (in Korean) were then translated into Thai. Once the interview was posted online, the interview was then translated into English for the international community.
The mention of the “7,000 won” in Zico’s answer was supposedly meant to show how much money he had on him at the time of the interview, and not the amount he was willing to donate.
The focus now has shifted to how music programmes will deal with the entire situation. Although nothing has been officially announced, there is a strong possibility that Korean broadcasting companies such as SBS, KBS and MBC will prohibit Block B from promoting their latest song, Nalina, on their weekly music programmes.
The group’s absence from the latest Music Bank, Music Core and Inkigayo screenings have sent fans speculating that they have been banned. However, it is possible that Block B has just been restricted from performing until the controversy dies down.
While this is not the first time that a Korean idol has acted out of line, it is quite uncommon that a rookie group has been under fire for misbehaving. The actions by Block B members were disrespectful, but I feel that they have gone out of their way to apologise and perhaps it is time that fans open their hearts to accept that the young boys are sincerely regretting their actions.
As fans, we tend to be very protective of our beloved idols. But it is never wrong to correct and express dissatisfaction with their actions especially on sensitive issues. The fate of Block B now lies in the hands of the media and fans, as they will inadvertently decide the direction the group will take once the scandal has died down.