YouTuber Freesia (25, real name Song Ji-ah), who became famous for appearing on the Netflix reality show ‘Solo Hell’, has once again entered the conversation with a Chinese version of YouTube video following the controversy over fakes. In a video he uploaded to China’s video platform ‘Bilibili’ last year, he wrote kimchi as ‘pao chai’ (泡菜). Pao chai is a word that has become a problem because China distorted history by saying, “Kimchi is a kind of pao chai, and Chinese culture” in terms of the ‘Northeast Project’. Netizens raised their voices of criticism, saying, “It seems that there is no awareness of the problem.”
Kimchi as “pao chai”?… Controversy over Chinese content two years ago
Since 2020, Freezia has created a channel called ‘Freezia宋智雅’ on ‘Bilibili,’ which is called the Chinese version of YouTube, and is active. On Bilibili, he has over 1.25 million subscribers to his channel. The controversial video was uploaded in August 2020 and contains content about eating while taking Chinese classes. In the middle of the video, Freesia showed Kimchi steamed, saying, “I’m going to eat Kimchi steamed like this when I get home.” In this scene, the Chinese subtitles are ‘Pao Chai’ (泡菜).
Pao chai is a Chinese pickled vegetable that is salted and is different from Korean kimchi. This was known to South Korea by raising a problem with China’s ‘Kimchi Northeast Project’. At the end of 2020, it became known that China claimed kimchi as one of the traditional Chinese food, pao chai. Then, in Korea, there was a lot of criticism about writing kimchi as pao chai in Chinese. A popular Chinese YouTuber introduced Korean-style kimchi as a Chinese food, and a Chinese government organization also said about the video, “We need to protect ‘Pao Chai’, a splendid cultural heritage of 5,000 years.”
In response to the controversy, the government revised the ‘Guidelines for Foreign Language Translation and Labeling of Public Terms’ in July last year and changed the Chinese notation for kimchi to ‘Shinchi (辛奇)’ developed in 2013 by the Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs. The government and public institutions made it compulsory to use the shinchi (辛奇), not the pao chai.
Netizens who saw the video of Freesia reacted negatively, saying, “It contributes to the Northeast Project.” On an online community bulletin board, netizens criticized, saying, “It is impossible to shield money by selling the country”, “How serious is the Northeast Project right now?” and “It’s more of a problem than a fake.” Some netizens argued that it was a problem with the editor who put subtitles on the video, or that the kimchi was translated into pao chai before the Northeast Project controversy arose.
Active in China since 2 years ago… 1.25 million channel fans
Freesia has been active in the Chinese video platform ‘Billie Billy’, calling Chinese fans by the nickname ‘zaiya’. Chinese subtitles were added to videos posted on YouTube accounts, and videos made exclusively for Chinese fans were also continuously released. Some say they are learning Chinese by calling themselves ‘Zhonglini (Chinese beginner)’, or try on a traditional Chinese costume given to them as a birthday present by a Chinese fan. In the description of the video, he said, “I received the most surprising and special birthday present from the Chaiyas. Thanks to them, I tried ‘Chinese Princess’ once.”
Freesia evaluated China positively by comparing it to the YouTube silver button in the video that revealed the silver button that she received after reaching 100,000 subscribers on Bilibili. He said, “(Silver Button) is so cute” and “Chinese as well.” He also said, “I want to go to China when the corona is over and meet and talk with chaiyas in person.”
Netizens’ reactions to Freesia’s activities in China are mixed. Some netizens are showing reactions such as “It’s shocking that they secretly dug a Chinese account and aimed at China” and “It doesn’t seem like the person I knew.” On the other hand, there are opinions that there is no problem like celebrities entering the Chinese market. One netizen said, “There are many other YouTubers who create Chinese accounts and work.
Freesia’s agency also clarified directly on ‘Chinese capital rumors’
Meanwhile, rumors circulated that Freesia’s agency, Hyowon CNC, was made with Chinese capital. In an official position announced on the 19th, Hyowon CNC CEO Kim Hyo-jin directly stated that he had never received foreign capital investment. He explained that Hyowon CNC is a startup company that he and actress Kang Ye-won started with small capital, and has never received any form of investment, including corporate M&A investment.
Freesia became famous after appearing on Netflix’s entertainment program ‘Solo Hell’ while working as a beauty YouTuber. However, the luxury clothes, bags, and accessories he wore have been found to be fakes and are being criticized. In response, Freesia posted a handwritten apology on Instagram on the 17th and apologized, acknowledging that “the controversy over fake products you pointed out is partly true.” Although YouTube and Instagram content with exposed fakes have been deleted, they still remain in China’s Bilibili video.
Hyowon CNC CEO Kim Hyo-jin said, “Jia (Freesia) is also reflecting a lot. I’m sorry once again.”
Hyerin Jeong Intern reporter