New MBC Drama “Man Who Dies To Live” Offends Muslims With Debut Episode

The new drama from MBC, “Man Who Dies To Live,” offended numerous Muslims when the first two episodes aired this week.

The drama is about an average worker who goes to a fictional kingdom in the Middle East and somehow ends up a ruler. Later, he goes back to South Korea to see his daughter, challenging their relationship and making them both learn what it means to be “family.”

While the premise is somewhat questionable to begin with (considering he becomes a count in the Middle East), the drama still had a lot of potential as it was going to explore the Middle East and the culture there that has never been truly displayed on Korean television. While dramas have been filmed in the U.S., Canada, Europe, and more, this is one of the first to talk about Middle Eastern cultures. Unfortunately, the potential was left by the wayside as the program offended Arabs and Muslims around the world who are also lovers of Kpop and Kdramas.

The male lead takes cultural appropriation to the extreme by dressing in traditional, Middle-Eastern style outfits, wearing his hair and beard in a similar style to those in Dubai (the place that inspired the fictional kingdom, as well as the actual filming location of the drama), and darkening his skin until it’s bronze and golden. The character even admits to his cultural appropriation by talking bad about Korea and justifying why he identifies more as an Arab.

Not only that, the drama also stepped on toes when it took aspects of both Arab culture and the Muslim religion and turned it into a joke. In one scene, it shows Muslim women wearing hijabs with bikinis, taking a very important symbol of the faith to Muslim women and turning it into a joke with sexual undertones as the voluptuous women lounge about.

In the official poster for the drama, they use the Quran as a decoration on the table in front of the male lead. The man also has his feet propped up casually, exposing his dusty heels to the religious text— a very offensive move to Muslims.

In another scene, a king tries to get the male lead to marry one of his daughters. He then proceeds to order the man to marry her, inferring that the women had no choice (or even a voice) in the matter. He then goes on to say, “Buy one princess and have the other two for free,” joking that they were nothing more than items to be sold in order to get them off his hands.

Unfortunately, this isn’t the first case of MBC allowing disrespect for a religion. Earlier this month, Kpop queen Lee Hyori held a special stage on an MBC music show and danced very sexually as an important Hindu prayer played as her music. The song was the Gayatri Mantra, the most sacred of all texts and prayers to Hindu people and something children are taught almost as soon as they can speak. However, the important religious text was used as a song for Hyori as she danced sexually in skimpy clothes, offending numerous Hindus when they saw the video.

The problem is that Koreans face prejudice and racism themselves (just see the recent events with KARD in Brazil where they were openly mocked on TV for having “slanted” eyes and not being able to see properly). But even though they face such prejudice themselves, it’s unfortunately a problem that foreigners also face from Koreans. Not only do black and white people get made fun of or stereotyped (as you can see in our recent article about blackface and prejudice in Korea), now these cases of “brownface” and cultural appropriation and disrespect are being aimed at Muslims and Arabs in general. This is leading to more problems for Muslims who live in Korea, as you can see in the video below on an episode of “Hello Counselor.”

There are over 1 billion Muslims in the world, meaning that they make up almost 1/6 of the world’s population. Not only that, Arabs countries have a huge demand for Kpop and Kdramas. So, why is MBC risking offending such a large market with so many fans just to get a few laughs out of their Korean viewers?

The drama stars one of Korea’s top actors, Choi Min Soo. This means that ratings are high (already reaching over 10%) and exposing a very large Korean audience to the mocking of Arab culture and the Muslim religion. If a television show mocked Korean culture or the Buddhist religion, would they find it funny or find it offensive?

As a result of the show, many Muslim fans (as well as non-Muslims) are calling for a boycott of this show and asking MBC to stop broadcasting it, trending #JusticeForIslam on Twitter.

What is most unfortunate is that instead of playing to stereotypes and disrespecting other people’s religions, this program—filled with such amazing actors— could have been a delightful, funny show that also exposed people to the lovely, rich culture of the Middle East. Instead, it has just ended up offending and hurting many of its viewers instead.

*Since the time this article was published, MBC has officially apologized for hurting and offending Muslims around the globe. However, the drama will still continue to air. As a result, many people are still asking MBC to pull the drama or calling on other Kdrama fans to boycott the show.

What do you think? Is this a problem for Muslims and Arabs worldwide? Should the show be pulled? Let us know your thoughts in the comment section below.

lee1086 is the co-founder and director of What The Kpop. When not writing or editing articles, she is watching Kpop music videos or Kdramas. She is a huge fan of Super Junior and the perfection known as Eunsihae. When not obsessing over the flawlessness of Donghae or trying to decide if her SHINee bias is Taemin or Key, she is playing the piano, loving on her dog, and hanging out with her family and friends

Media: As Credited
*The views expressed in this article may not necessarily reflect the views of the entire WTK staff as a whole.

Readers Comments (23)

  1. It was filmed in Dubai. Not Saudi Arabia. Check your facts.

    Reply
  2. We are all hate MBC for making this drama ._____.

    Reply
  3. the writer must hate Muslims, if you watched ep 4 you cant tell where he laugh at Muslims who pray and his secretary cut the prayer to go with him to night club .

    Reply
  4. I think that wouldn’t be funny if anyone do the same with the Korean culture
    they have to respect others anyway. -.-

    Reply
  5. This not funny at all, kdrama suppose to respect other religion and belief . #boycottkdrama

    Reply
  6. our religion and our culture are not a joke ,so stop this stupid drama

    Reply
  7. is a fiction drama..i enjoyed very much and i wait next episodes..people..you dont know what is fiction?..the world is crazy..why your not so ofended when your in bus and some muslims come on you and hite you becouse you dont wear hijab..in the middle of London?..i think all overreacted with a story..a movie..when your countries make movies with bad asian..japones,chines mafia..bosnian terorists..bad and ugly russian spy..serbians terorist…Benny Hills 30 years ago was funny dressed in muslim and everybody cry with-we are Charlie….and so on..you people wasnt so ofended. then..i enjoy this drama and i really hope to see at the last episode…so many hypocrits…sorry my poor english..

    Reply
    • You’re definitely right- a lot of people, nationalities, and races have been stereotyped and made fun of throughout the years. However, that doesn’t necessarily make it right or acceptable. While we don’t judge anyone for watching and enjoying the show (each person is different), we also don’t judge others for being offended since it’s a personal matter and someone’s religion can be a very sensitive and personal topic. As someone else point out, many Muslim countries watch Kdramas and there is a huge demand for them there. So, just from a business standpoint, it doesn’t make sense for a drama to make fun of or offend the very people who are buying their dramas, watching them, supporting them, etc. So, we can defintiely see both sides to the matter, for sure!

      Either way, thank you for sharing your opinion and thoughts! We always enjoy hearing from our readers. 🙂

      Reply
  8. Charlie hebdo and other political events have nothing to do with this drama. Many people don’t know anything about political events and hate killing innocent persons. But media always concentrate on two or three Muslim terrorists.
    Although this is a fiction but the Quran obviously is not a fiction in this drama. Even if in Arab and Muslim countries, Japanese, Russians and other cultures are portrayed as bad people in movies, people of these countries usually don’t watch or like these movies, let alone international viewers. But K dramas are popular among Arabs and Muslims, mostly because of their moral content and themes and not to bold cultural and religious differences. Muslims loves K dramas regardless of their actors’ and Director’s religion. It seems this is not enough to make Korean drama makers stop offending Muslims.
    The first K drama that I watched was Pasta and I was surprised to see Seo Yoo-Kyung was dressed as many girls in many Islamic countries. Her father’s behavior was similar to many fathers in Muslim world.
    Thereafter I searched a lot on internet and I found too many values shared between Muslims and Southeast Asian countries. In fact in all countries people are the same. They want to live well and be happy. Russia went in war with both Ukraine and Georgia. But you will be surprised to see people in all these three countries are the same: very kind and pleasant. Unfortunately in the world, we hate each other because of things that we don’t even know exactly.

    Reply
  9. Stop this bad drama, This drama is against my religion”Islam” and the Arabs .

    This drama is so offensive to my religion ,

    Our religion is not a jok for your drama.

    Reply
  10. Why do people automatically assume that book in the stand is a Koran? This entire controversy is silly. This is not a show about Islam.

    Reply
  11. To hell with you then. Fictioner

    Reply
  12. please stop this drama

    Reply
  13. To portray rich culture? First, the Lee Hyori dance- do your research and do it well as a producer. Why would anyone dance sexually to a song you shouldnt dance sexually to? That shows that the producer is too lazy to research on what is right. The problem is not that other people have been stereotyped, the problem is when the stereotype borders to outright insult and disrespect. I am African, and I have no problem when Hollywood uses a South African accent, instead of Nigerian, as long as they do not speak any native language. I would have a problem if they used my native language in the wrong context. If a Korean drama decides to colour one of their own in a weird black- its okay- its actually funny. However, if they use an African dirge in a wedding- i would not consider that stereo typing. Its lazy and not funny. If you want to portray someone’s culture, research, ask questions, get it right and even if you cant do it right at least make effort. That is how you show case culture. Making fun of a culture should be subtle to the extend that they laugh it off not get angry. As for the show, it can go on, its not my kind of drama.

    Reply
  14. this is so wrong they are showing wrong picture of islam and making fun of it … hate u with all my heart!!!!
    i want to hit shoe on face of writer director actors all of them

    Reply
  15. idk why people say that they are showing the wrong pic of islam … as a muslim i find this accurate
    all the things mentioned do exist in real life and let be honest here whe never really showed a good pic of ourselves … most of us uses islam just as a covergae but never really apply it ( praying for exp ) so why are u all sensitive about
    just face it this is our reality

    Reply
  16. you are probably a Muslim, but definitely not an Arab, if you don’t get why are they upset … u.u there are plenty of misrepresentations when it comes to Arabs, that we don’t agree with … although, personally, I find it funny knowing how they think about the Arabs … and their imitation of the Arabic language is hilarious! I believe that correcting the misconceptions is a better solution than getting mad at them. Since Koreans, apparently, don’t know the Arabs very well anyways, telling them what is a myth and what isn’t is the right approach, I believe :3 one more thing, Islam is a religion, Muslims are people! and people can identify themselves with a certain belief without following it thoroughly. please make sure to differentiate between Islam, and Arabs. Arabs can be Muslims, and can be NOT! They have plenty of other religions ya know. It’s just that “Islam” is what many identify with, but not all … (( believe it or not, many are seculars nowadays more than religious :3)).

    Reply
  17. A fact is that there is a very strong wave of muslim haters in korea mostly protestants who hate islam and muslims they are pro zionist and they are spreading all kinds of false information about Islam, I have seen church lectures on youtube saying all kinds of insults and lies about islam and the comments were scary. MBC has embarked on that wave and is doing it’s part of mocking and falsifying.
    Korean people are too lazy too occupied to search about islam or muslims they get most of their information from media which is the least credible way to find true information.
    the funny thing is you have the kpop wave where girls dance almost naked performing all kinds of sexual poses that offends their dignity and it’s ‘OK’ as long as they are payed, nobody speaks about women rights in this case, and when muslim women cover themselves you find all kinds of so called righteous people coming to save them from their ‘peril’ or you find people like MBC who distort their decency and modesty into this kind of drama.

    Reply
  18. When the world stops portraying Italians as Mafia and gangsters as Italian, I’ll start being offended on behalf of everyone else’s culture. We Italians have leaned to live with it and just move on. You should learn a little perspective.

    Reply
  19. I think most decisions to pull programs aren’t due to respect or disrespect but to fear. All other cultures have been made fun of for the sake of fiction or comedy but as soon as a Muslim gets offended we talk about pulling the program. We should either apply this to all cultures and religions or to none. As soon as we do it just for one then it’s unfair to all.

    Reply

Leave a Reply....

%d bloggers like this: