The opening ceremony of the Tokyo 2020 Olympics took on July 23 and the march of athletes was naturally one of the highlights of the event.
The opening ceremony was broadcasted in South Korea by Munhwa Broadcasting Corporation (MBC), and when athletes were marching into the stadium, MBC briefly introduced each country with images and captions.
Nevertheless, MBC’s choice of introduction content received backlash worldwide after it was aired.
Raphael Rashi, a South Korea-based freelance journalist, tweeted that MBC introduced Italy and Norway with the images of pizzas and salmon; during Haitian athletes’ entry, the caption read “the political situation in Haiti is perplexed after the assassination of its president” alongside an image of an upheaval.
As for Ukraine, MBC even chose an image of the Chernobyl Disaster.
When Haitian athletes entered the stadium, an on-screen explanation said "the political situation is fogged by the assassination of the president." When Syrian athletes entered, it said "rich underground resources; a civil war that has been going on for 10 years."
— Raphael Rashid (@koryodynasty) July 23, 2021
The Korea Herald reported that MBC received criticism during the Beijing 2008 Olympics with similar actions.
At the time, MBC introduced Sudan as a country that was “unstable and with years of civil war” and Zimbabwe as the one with “fatal inflation.”
MBC on July 24 issued a statement, apologizing for the “inappropriate images and captions” as it introduced certain countries.
It also expressed that its intention was to “make it easier for the viewers to understand the entering countries quickly.”
We apologize to the countries concerned and our viewers. It is an inexcusable mistake. Again, we are deeply sorry and regretful for the mistake.
July 24, 2021
— withMBC (@withMBC) July 24, 2021
Taiwan was relatively more “fortunate” in this controversy.
According to Kaster Khu, a freelance journalist focusing on Taiwan-South Korea affairs, MBC introduced Taiwan with a map that illustrated Taiwan’s geographical location in East Asia and captions that indicated the capital, land area, population, GDP per capita, and COIVD-19 vaccination rate.
Khu also mentioned MBC added that “Taiwan thrives in Semiconductor and tourism industries.”
It appeared that Taiwanese social media users mainly adopted a positive attitude toward MBC’s introduction of Taiwan.