British celebrity in South Korea embroiled in racism controversy
On his popular TV show, Simon Burfiend compared a bakery in South Korea to one in the UK by saying it was ‘civilised’
By Jung Min-ho
A British man who rose to instant fame after appearing on a popular TV show in Korea has been embroiled in a racism controversy for a comment during the show and his behaviour on Instagram.
Simon Burfiend, 25, one of the three main cast members for the latest season of “Welcome! First Time in Korea?” on MBC Every1, has been criticised by thousands of Koreans for what he said during the episode aired on January 18.
In the episode, Burfiend and the two others visited a bakery in Seoul and shared their opinions about the taste of its bread. In response to another cast member’s comment, “This is very much like a bakery in the U.K,” Burfiend said, “Yes, this is quite civilised.”
Given that the word “civilised” apparently has racist overtones to many people, Burfiend has been widely criticised on social media and blogs over the past week.
“I like the show so much. But the producer needs to explain about his remark,” one said on Twitter Wednesday. “I’m disappointed in him,” another Twitter user said.
According to TheFreeDictionary.com, a U.S. online dictionary, the word “civilise” means “to bring out of savagery or barbarism into a state characteristic of civilisation.” Although some people do not necessarily take its meaning offensively, many still think the word contains a Euro-centric notion of progress and enlightenment and a racist connotation.
Many public figures have been caught up in similar controversies. At the G20 summit in July, French President Emmanuel Macron sparked a strong backlash by saying Africa’s issues, such as failed states and rapid population growth, are “civilisational” ones that are different from those faced by Europe after the Second World War.
Burfiend is also accused of condoning his friends’ racist remarks on his Instagram page. After the episode aired, some Korean fans found him on the photo-sharing service, in which they praised him in English.
Apparently making fun of their incorrect use of English, his friends left comments like, “Hi Mr Simone big fan of u, much muscles on your bod so handysom peace look forward to next filming.”
After a Korean pointed out their rude behaviour, Burfiend got rid of the comment section.
The Korea Times contacted Burfiend via email for an explanation, but he did not respond.