As you can see, you can trust their input on these things since they clearly get the concerns of international netizens.
Anyway, so YMC Entertainment (two statements) and MBC issued their official responses to the controversy.
“After checking with the ‘Show Champion’ producers, it was found that the phrases Kim Jaehwan used were not problematic. This is all a misunderstanding caused by International fans who misheard the Korean language and interpreted [his words] as something different.”—YMC Entertainment
“This is an official statements from YMC Entertainment. On August 23rd, Jaehwan Kim’s comments during
segement were discussed and approved by the show’s producers prior to the segement. We strongly express that there were no negative intentions or meanings. So please do not impose anymore and do not make a negative speculation against the artist. We appreciate your understanding. Thank you very much.”
“As it states in the video subtitles on Show Champion ‘YaHaeJoolLaeVCR’, Kim Jae Hwan was simply saying ‘I’m here’ in a freestyle format. It wasn’t anything problematic for the broadcast. We want to let everyone know that there was no other meaning behind it. We sincerely hope there are no misunderstandings with the viewers.”— MBC Show Champion
They are indeed claiming he’s making a pun on ‘naega wasseo’ with ‘naega wasseop’. As mentioned before, that would be the best-case scenario for him … and it’s still a pun based on wanting to drop the n-word.
Amazingly, it’s Koreaboo that came up with the most complete response so that nobody else really needs to.
Koreaboo has multiple fluent, bilingual Korean staff members on our team who reviewed the video clip. This is not a “Korean vs Foreigner” misunderstanding or controversy. This is not an issue where Koreaboo did not understand the Korean language or Korean culture.
In the video, Jaehwan uses a pun and plays off the Korean word, “내가 왔어” (naega wasseo) by pronouncing “wasseo” as “wasseop”. Playing off the word “wasseo” to say “wasseop” has become more popular amongst some Koreans. Speaking in this way became a trend that originated from Korean rappers. The words are ‘slurred’ to sound more hip-hop or American. For example, you could say in Korean, “I’m Here” by saying “Na Wassup” instead of “Na Wasseo”. This pun and play-on-words are what’s racist and absolutely controversial. It’s important to take into context the origination of this “pun”. It’s important to understand that a majority of the time, you hear the word “Wasseo” it’s with the word “Naega”. This is the case in Jaehwan’s situation, where he says, “Naega Wasseop”. This slang and style of speaking originated from rappers and those looking to “slang” a phrase to sound hiphop or American. The intentions may not be malicious or filled with racist intent, but the end result remains the same. The play-on-word and slang is a round-about way to say “Yo n*gga, wassup” in Korean. Most Koreans may not know this and use this slang and style of speaking, with no intentions of being racist. Koreaboo does not believe Jaehwan is being intentionally racist, offensive, or malicious. This does not change the fact that the statement and phrase is inappropriate and perpetuates racism.
I, uh, that about sums it up.
What the fuck.
Anyway, others have chimed in with similar sentiments.
I asked my Korean friend. All the k-wannables and others defending Jaehwan can stick it up their ass pic.twitter.com/6jvcLuPyMN
— ⋆.* (@winlongguo) August 24, 2017
The opinion on this from that individual, Koreaboo’s staff, and others who have responded similarly on social media match what native Koreans I’ve asked have said as well (because they can’t just be fluent in Korean or ethnically Korean, but native Korean). Basically they told me that the best-case scenario is that the pun he was using was meant to imitate the n-word.
Though in a way I suppose it is a misunderstanding. The common theme here is that the people who recognize the pun as racist are all bilingual and are familiar with the African-American origins of the pun Jaehwan was making. Thus, it’s not necessarily a matter of fluency in Korean, but cultural understanding. That is rather hilariously ironic since the Jaehwan stans in this case have been the ones harping on cultural reasons over and over. And in the end, they may have actually been right, except it’s that if Korean idols like Jaehwan are going to be borrowing stuff like this, then the cultural understanding needs to be coming from them.