SEOUL, June 22 (Korea Bizwire) – Jun Ji-hyun (Jianna Jun) and Kim Soo-hyun, South Korean Hallyu superstars and most sought-after celebrities nowadays, have been in serious trouble for their recently sealed contract with a Chinese company.
The famous duo from “My Love from the Star” signed an ad contract with a Chinese mineral water maker Hengda Bingquan and recently shot a commercial for the drinking water made by the company — Jun in China earlier this month and Kim in Korea quite recently .
However, there emerged controversy over the company’s water source; It turned out that the water company listed the water source as “Jang Bai Shan,” and this “name of the origin” for the branded water put the Korean heart throbs into under harsh criticism from the Korean people.
Jang Bai Shan refers to Mount Baekdu(Paektu) or Paektu Mountain, a symbolic place among Koreans; Koreans consider Mount Baekdu as the place of their ancestral origin and as a sacred mountain.
The mountain, straddling North Korea and China, is the starting point of the backbone of the Korean mountains to the south. And Ahn seung-il, a renowned mountain photographer, has once famously said “Mount Baekdu holds the soul of Korean people.”
In Chinese, the mountain itself is known as Jang Bai Shan or Changbaishan (meaning “perpetually white mountain”) and to the eyes of China, or Chinese leadership to be more specific, Jang Bai Shan belongs to one of China’s history, not Korea’s, from this the dispute begins.
In fact, calling Baekdu Mountain as Jang Bai Shan has been aggressively pushed as part of China’s “Northeast Project” that stirred up a great deal of controversy and intense protests from the Korean government and civic groups in the past.
※ Paektu (Baekdu) Mountain
Paektu, Baekdu, or Changbai Mountain is an active volcano on the border between North Korea and China. At 2,744 m (9,003 ft), it is the highest mountain of the Changbai and Baekdudaegan ranges. It is also the highest mountain on the Korean Peninsula and in northeastern China. A large crater lake, called Heaven Lake, is in the caldera atop the mountain.
China’s “Northeast Project” is a national academic project launched in 2002, whose aim is to confirm that northeastern China, including early Korean kingdoms — such as the ancient Korean kingdom of Koguryo or Goguryeo — that once were located there, has always been under the Middle Kingdom’s control.
In other words, Jang Bai Shan is a signature gesture by the Chinese government to rewrite the Northeastern Asian history and to that end, to incorporate Koguryo (Goguryeo) into part of ancient Chinese territories.
Taking into all the proceedings into account, the South Korean superstars’ endorsement contract for a Chinese brand which openly mentions the water source as Jang Bai Shan — not as Baekdu Mountain — can amount to acknowledging and even siding with the Chinese government’s effort to rewrite the history, argues some Korean fans.
Local fans criticized their commercial contract for the brand is as good as accepting an offer from a Japanese company which publicly claims “Takeshima” as one of their territories. Takeshima is a Japanese word for Dokdo, South Korea’s cherished islet, and the place has played a perpetual flashpoint in Korea-Japan relationships throughout the modern history.
But other fans are objecting the widespread criticism by saying “To claim Jang Bai Shan to be associated with China’s Northeast Project has gone too far. The name of Jang Bai Shan appeared more than two thousand years ago in several Chinese literature.” And “For that matter, Jun and Kim’s shooting ad for the Chinese brand that mentioned Jang Bai Shan as the source of their branded water has nothing to do with their patriotism of a sort.”
※ China’s “Northeast Project”
The project is run by the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences (CASS) and is carried out by the provinces of Liaoning, Jilin and Heilongjiang. Due to its claim that the ancient Korean kingdom of Koguryo was part of China, the project met fierce resistance from Korea.
Whatever the merit of the rising controversy, the agency for the Korean celebrities seems to assuage the public outcry as they plan to revoke the contract even though the cancellation might cause huge penalty cost and punitive damages.
Reportedly, Kim Soo-hyun’s management agency expressed their apology for not doing thorough check-up on the water source. “We feel very sorry for not having checked the water source and the related matter more carefully. We will be more prudent whether there is any issue at stake when we make contract commercial ad contracts from now on.” announced Kim’s agency.
It is reported that Jun and Kim already finished their shooting of the ad for the branded water and received 1 billion won for the commercial. But they are seeking out an annulment of the contract — which might cost them penalty of billions of won. Apart from the price they have to pay for the breach of the contract, the damage for their image might be much more severe and linger on, given the mounting criticism from the local fans for now.
In the mean time, Kim Soo-hyun has been dubbed as the “King of Commercials” breaking records with the number of ads endorsement contracts he has recently signed. Kim has recently done 10 commercials in the local market but he has appeared in 35 different countries for commercial shootings. So how the recent controversy over the Chinese water brand will affect Kim’s later commercial activities is yet to be seen.
Mt. Baekdu’s Meaning for Koreans
Koreans consider Mount Baekdu as the place of their ancestral origin and as a sacred mountain, one of the three “spirited” mountains (Jirisan, Hallasan and Baekdusan; “san” means a mountain in Korean); the one contained in the legendary foundation of Korea. From the beginning of history through the Three Kingdoms period, to the Goryeo and Joseon Dynasties, Koreans have spiritually depended upon the “divine” mountain. The mountain was considered sacred by Koreans throughout history. The legendary beginning of Korea’s first kingdom, Gojoseon (2333 BC–108 BC), takes place here. Many subsequent kingdoms of Korea, such as Buyeo, Goguryeo, Balhae, Goryeo and Joseon, considered the mountain sacred and held worshipping rituals for the mountain. (Wikipedia)
The Goguryeo controversies are disputes between China and South Korea on the history of Goguryeo, an ancient kingdom (37 BC – 668 AD) located mostly in present-day Northeast China and North Korea. At the heart of the Goguryeo controversy is whether Goguryeo is a part of Chinese history exclusively, Korean history exclusively, separate from both, or shared by all. During the 1980s, Chinese scholarship was liberated from the strictures of the Maoist era, and social scientists began studying the history of Goguryeo, challenging the conventional view that Goguryeo was exclusively part of Korean history. (Wikipedia)
Written by Jerry M. Kim (firstname.lastname@example.org)